Planning Commission refers two matters to Board of Zoning Appeals

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — When it comes to zoning matters in Metro Moore County the Metro Planning Commission interprets the Metro Zoning Ordinances as previously approved by the Metro Council and the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) hears and determines requests for special exceptions to those ordinances. On Tuesday, five members of the Metro Planning Commission voted unanimously to send two “non-conforming” zoning issues to the BZA for review.

Chairman Ryan Dickert, Jim Crawford, Robert Carroll, Angelica Lightfoot, and Jimmy Hammond were present at the meeting. Dexter Golden and Jeff Ross were absent.

Hardship request for a travel trailer occupancy

On Tuesday, two locals – Roy and Rita Logan – appeared before the Commission seeking permission to move a fifth wheel travel trailer onto a family member’s property in order to be onsite for health reasons. The couple informed the Commission that they planned to have separate water, sewer, and electric onsite and that they intended the situation to be temporary.

In Metro Moore County, permanent residency of a travel trailer is not permitted. The ordinance does allow those building a home to live onsite in a travel trailer for up to six months while the residence is under construction.

During the meeting Chairman Ryan Dickert stated that he thought the easiest path forward would be to send the matter to the BZA asking for a variance to the ordinance for temporary occupancy based on a hardship.

“I thought we carved that exception out already,” stated Commission member Jim Crawford.

Chair Dickert read the ordinance closely and stated that if that were the intention of the Commission it did not make it into the official ordinance.

“I’m not opposed to adding a hardship exception into the ordinance but that will take longer,” he explained. “The next BZA meeting happens on April 18, and I think that will be the shortest route here. If we want to address the hardship exception at the next planning meeting, we can add it to new business.”

Jim Crawford made a motion to refer the matter to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Robert Carroll seconded. The Commission voted unanimously to refer the matter to the BZA.

Agri-tourism exception for Promise Manor

Chairman Dickert stated that following the last meeting, he contacted Metro Planning’s attorney Sam Edwards for an opinion on the agricultural/agri-tourism exception requested by Promise Manor’s Dennis and Kayla White.

In the March meeting, the Whites appeared before the Commission on the matter of the silo project at Promise Manor and their future plans to incorporate both educational and agri-tourism components into the project. The Commission took no action in that meeting.

Edwards answered Chair Dickert with a five paragraph email that was entered into the public record of Tuesday’s meeting.

In that letter, Edwards explained to the Commission that “if a use of property meets the [state’s legal] definition of agricultural, then that use is protected against the county zoning laws ie. no issuance of a building permit is required. But if the use is not deemed agricultural then it must comply with zoning.”

In short, land designation is determined in the State of Tennessee by use and not necessarily by zoning.

The determining factor of whether a piece of property qualifies as agricultural, according to Edwards, is whether or not actual farming is the prime activity and use of the land. Referencing the legal precedent set in Jefferson County v. Wilmonth Family Properties, Edwards stated that in order to qualify for agricultural zoning exceptions farming and not entertainment or educational purposes needed to be the primary use of the land

“If the building officials determine a use is not appropriate or make a decision contrary to the owner’s belief of what the law is, then the aggrieved party can fill out an application to appear before the board of zoning appeals to hear and decide where the applicant believes there is an error, requirement, or decision refusal by the building official.”

“Basically, my understanding is that if agriculture is the primary use of the land as determined by time and/or money then if it qualifies. If it’s secondary, it does not. Either way, it’s beyond our scope because it doesn’t technically follow an existing ordinance. So I think the the right move is to send it to the BZA,” Chair Dickert stated. “Our jobs is just to make sure that existing ordinances are applied to everyone equally. We need to hold a standard for everyone that’s the same.”

“We’re not enforcement,” added Jim Crawford.

“Right,” agreed Dickert. “If doesn’t conform to the policy as written, it needs to go to the BZA.”

Jim Crawford made a motion to refer the matter to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Robert Carroll seconded. The Commission voted unanimously to refer the matter to the BZA.

The next Board of Zoning Appeals meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 18 at the County Building at 4:30 p.m. All BZA meeting are open to the general public and all persons with business before the Board will be notified in advance. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently-owned, community newspaper located in Lynchburg, Tennessee the home of The Jack Daniel Distillery. We focus on public service, non-partisan, rural journalism. We cover the Metro Moore County government, local tourism, Moore County schools, high school sports, Motlow State Community College, as well as whiskey industry news and regional and state stories that affect our readers.}.