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County Commission hopes to break deadlock on contentious Bill of Rights issue; vote to be held July 17

The Gadsden County Commission hopes to finally end the deadlock over the Citizens’ Bill of Rights at its meeting next Tuesday (July 17).

The Citizens’ Bill of Rights has been the most contentious issue in the county since its passing eight years ago — and has continued to be deadlocked recently in the commission.

At the commission’s May 15 meeting, for example, changes to the Citizens’ Bill of Rights were on the agenda, but the issue wasn’t even voted on as it was clear that the commissioners who wanted to change the ordinance as suggested (Chair Brenda Holt, Vice Chair Anthony Viegbesie and Commissioner Eric Hinson) wouldn’t get the necessary four-out-of-five super-majority vote needed to amend the ordinance as Commissioners Sherrie Taylor and Gene Morgan remained firm in refusing to vote for the proposed changes to the legislation.

Doing away with the super-majority vote (which under the current Citizens’ Bill of Rights is required to approve most kinds of developments in the county as well as to amend or repeal the Citizens’ Bill of Rights ordinance itself) has been a major sticking point in the commission’s standstill on this issue.

With the commission unable to get anywhere, Hinson requested a workshop at the May 15 meeting to try to help the commissioners build a compromise on this issue. That workshop took place on June 21.

And while commissioners on both sides of this issue still took strong stands at the June 21 workshop about not wanting to move their positions, there appeared to be some headway made to reach a compromise about the Citizens’ Bill of Rights at that June 21 workshop,

Based on commissioner input at the workshop, the super-majority vote will likely be staying in the ordinance in some form or another. 

In one option, the super-majority vote would be removed from many minor forms of development in the county except for developments that include amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map as well as for special exceptions. 

Another alternative being presented would remove the requirement for a super-majority vote in certain geographical areas even for 

developments that include amendments to the county’s Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map as well as for special exceptions.

This second option being presented at the July 17 meeting is to do away with the super-majority vote for developments in an overlay district to consist of Economic Opportunity Zones within a mile of the following boundaries: Highway 27, Highway 90, each I-10 interchange and each city limit.

According to Allara Gutcher, the county’s land use consultant who is writing all the suggested changes to this ordinance, the intent of this overlay district is to “create a waiver of the requirements of the Citizens’ Bill of Rights ordinance for those properties that lie within the boundaries of these Economic Opportunity Zones as an incentive for economic development by streamlining the development review process for areas that are more suitable for non-residential development.” 

If you’d like to come to this commission meeting yourself to see what will transpire, the session is set to start at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17 at the Edward J. Butler Governmental Complex, located at 9-B East Jefferson Street in Quincy.

By Randall Lieberman