VALDOSTA — A 4-3 vote Thursday evening by Valdosta City Councilmen deemed the storm water utility ordinance be postponed one additional month for a formal public hearing about the new fee structure.

The new structure charges $2.50 per 3,704 square feet of impervious surface — areas like roofs, concrete and sidewalks that water can’t penetrate — and varies with residential units according to size. The most a homeowner would pay is $4.25 a month with the average falling between $1.25 and $2.50. Businesses would pay the base rate of $2.50 per the amount of impervious surface. The structure allows businesses to get up to 60 percent in credits for taking measures to deal with storm water.

The old proposal asked for a base rate of $4.25 and had an unclear credit system. Council tabled the proposal in November to give more time to slim down fees and clarify the system.

After sitting patiently through a solid hour of rezoning requests, members in the audience wishing to speak about storm water fees had to wait an additional time period while councilmen, the mayor and city attorney looked up policies in Robert’s Rules of Order.

Councilman David Sumner challenged procedures when Fretti OK’d a motion by Councilman Willie T. Head Jr. to postpone the meeting for one month without introducing other motions.

Sumner and Councilman Robert Yost both said they were in favor of adopting the ordinance during Thursday’s meeting, and Sumner said the Council had plenty of time since the matter was first tabled to meet with constituents and educate the public.

Yost said he was worried that Fretti’s closing out other motions would prevent those sitting in the audience from speaking. Sumner said he wanted to conduct the meeting according to procedure.

Back and forth bantering led to City Attorney George Talley stepping out of chambers to flip through the rule book.

Fretti said he would not have closed out the comment period with Head’s motion, but wanted to save the Council time.

When the citizens got a chance to voice concerns, a few questioned how the fees would affect businesses.

Dan Davis, businessman, said he understood the need for storm water maintenance but wanted to know if the city’s engineering department could look at specific issues and correct them instead of paying city employees to maintain flooding situations.

“I feel like this is putting (the burden) on taxpayers,” Davis said. He said school systems will probably have to further cut programs where they can’t, or pass the burden onto taxpayers.

Though Davis said he didn’t have all of his questions answered, he said the new fee structure was easier to digest than the old one.

Roger Budd III told Councilmen the fees would be a tax increase on property owners and would be hard on businesses. He said he favored no increase in fees and recommended the Council look at cutting other areas in the budget.

The motion to postpone the item passed with conditions a public hearing be held and a hot line be established where citizens could call with questions. The ordinance will be put back up for a vote at the March 9 meeting.

Zoning decisions:

• One by one, unincorporated islands swam into the city during the meeting. Four properties in unincorporated islands received Council’s approval to annex into the city. Tillman Motors at 3255 N. Valdosta Road joins the city limits. The applicants requested the motion for city police protection.

Developer Gary Minchew asked to annex and rezone 1.03 acres east of the Baytree Road and Gornto Road intersection. Minchew received the Council’s OK to rezone the property from Neighborhood Commercial zoning to Highway Commercial Zoning to develop a small shopping center.

Po-Ed’s Seafood Restaurant at the northwest corner of West Roswell Drive and Madison Highway joined city ranks, and the rezoning includes an undeveloped portion of land that will be used for “speculative purposes.”

A doctor wishing for city water and sewer service for a medical practice got the OK from councilmen. Two lots zoned Neighborhood Commercial were rezoned to Residential Professional, allowing for two office buildings.

Walker’s Garden Center at 2613 Bemiss Road received approval to come into the city and to rezone to Highway Commercial classification. The garden center will be no more. A strip-type shopping center will be developed with remaining the remaining property being turned into small warehouse facilities.

• There will be no swimming lessons at the 1900 block of Mathis Drive. Councilmen unanimously voted to deny a special exception to allow the applicant, Margaret Herman, to teach swimming lessons in the backyard pool. Neighboring residents voiced opposition at the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission’s January meeting and attended the Council’s Thursday night meeting, further echoing concerns.

Yost, representative for the applicant’s district, said he wants to protect the integrity of the neighborhood.

“Let’s keep this neighborhood a neighborhood,” he said.

• The city will get a walk-up hot dog stand in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Corridor. At the Planning Commission’s January meeting, visions of plump hot dogs and mounds of relish prompted a hearty “OK” from commissioners. Council followed suit during Thursday’s meeting.

• Council approved a light manufacturing operation at 100 Avenue B, west of the intersection of West Hill Avenue and St. Augustine Road. The request required an approved special exception to the Highway Commercial zoning. The Pioneer Paper and Plastics Facility currently resides in the property.

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