Article 600 and the P & Z Shell Game

A recent rash of noise complaints from private citizens against lake front businesses has escalated in recent weeks. These complaints have drawn attention to Camden County’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The complaints are challenging zoning classifications and use permits of both Paradise, a restaurant and bar located in Sunrise Beach and Lazy Gators, part of an entertainment complex on Horseshoe Bend. In both cases, private home owners are lodging complaints against these facilities. The complaints are similar in nature and have centered around noise levels, citing that homeowners’ rights are being violated in what is being termed ‘commercial creep’.

These complaints and various legal proceedings have begun to make an argument for the need for Article 600, currently tabled by the County Commission in lieu of public opposition. Article 600, according to an argument made by Kris Franken in March, was necessary to provide enforcement for Planning and Zoning violations. He explained that after a 90-day violation is issued, the county has no other recourse than the courts.

“This is where our current code exhausts enforcement,” Franken said in quote from “At that point all we can do is file suit in civil court which is very expensive.”

The Commission should know. They have been caught in legal proceedings they began with Lazy Gators in recent years. Lazy Gators, which sits on a lot that was formerly the site to an abandoned house, is zoned as residential. Instead of rezoning to accommodate the commercial use of the point, the county remained steadfast on keeping the lot zoned residential. This was done under the leadership of a county commission that included two residents of Horseshoe Bend, current Commissioner Bev Thomas and former Presiding Commissioner Carolyn Lorraine.

Attorney and husband of former Presiding Commissioner Lorraine, Thomas Lorraine, representing Mr. and Mrs. Richard Danowsky, filed a petition in Camden County Circuit Court against the Paradise Bar and Grill in Sunrise Beach. The petition states his clients land rights and values were being adversely affected by the noise levels coming from neighboring Paradise. ” They won’t enforce their own codes.” Lorraine said of the county.

Across the Lake, residents of the Village of the Four Seasons have lodged similar complaints against Lazy Gators. They cite entertainment cabanas, outdoor music and traffic congestion as being in violation of Camden County zoning regulations. Anonymous citizens were quoted, hitting an interesting array of talking points in a recent article by Dan Field in the Lake Sun. In it, Field describes at length, concerns of unidentified citizens. Additionally, he takes great pains to avoid mentioning the approximate number of those citizens standing against the operation of Lazy Gators.

From Field’s Lake Sun article:

The group attending the Village meeting says it will continue to visit with residents and work to gather momentum in halting the noise and other concerns.

“One of the issues is that the Camden County Planning and Zoning has little recourse when somebody breaks the rules other than the courts,” a resident said. “We’re not against development, none of us is, as long as the development doesn’t infringe on the residents.

Our voices are going to be the most important thing in getting this resolved,” a resident said.

Village Clerk Tom Laird encouraged residents to attend Planning and Zoning meetings and Camden County Commissioner meetings.

Article 600, from sales pitches issued from county commissioners in recent months, is the solution. Residents of the Village of the Four Seasons would clearly like to see Article 600 passed and applied to developer of Lazy Gators, Gary Prewitt. In order to satisfy citizens in the Village of Four Seasons, the county filed suit against Prewitt, claiming him to be in violation of zoning restrictions. The county has also denied all attempts to rezone the lot to commercial. This failure to rezone and decision to pursue a court judgement would not seem to be in the best interest of Camden County. It would however, appear to benefit a few residents of Horseshoe Bend. These residents of Four Seasons, who would remain anonymous, would like to see unwarranted inspections and heavy fines imposed on residents in Camden County. The Commission’s office seems all too eager to assist in these flimsy ‘justifications’ to pass Article 600. The County Commission, through the use of a manufactured crisis by way of the lawsuit filed against Lazy Gators, is seeking political cover regarding the controversial Planning and Zoning Article. They would seek to give themselves protection against public resentment, should they pass it.

The next meeting of the County Commission will be at 10am on May 16th. As the justifications mount in favor of Article 600, so too does the resolve of those who stand in opposition to such gross government overreach. The citizens of Camden County, whose voices were loud in defiance of the ambiguous Article 600, now have both their eyes and ears wide open, looking for the next move in this shell game.