Visions for Pine Hill’s future clashed on Thursday, September 2, as the city’s planning commission reconciles which ordinances to change or fully enforce.
The zoning currently allows businesses on Pine Hill to operate a mixed-use property with a storefront and living space on the backside of property.
During the meeting, property owners made cases for and against amending the city code to allow a process for single-family residences to meet city standards.
While two properties on Pine Hill were “grandfathered in,” other residents living in storefronts would have to apply for conditional-use permits and be approved by the city, despite living in violation of the current code now. The meeting was held in response to “numerous complaints,” according to the agenda.
The property owner and operator of Southern Turnings, Scott Maddox, advocated for the planning commission to enforce the current code instead of amending it to appease property owners in violation.
Maddox, who served two terms on the planning commission to enforce the current code instead of amending it to appease property owners in violation.
Maddox, who served two terms on the planning commission, was on the board when the city code was amended to allow mixed-use developments in Pine Hill’s business district.
“The land code was amended to allow for mixed-use buildings and properties,” Maddox explained. “The attempt was for the development of properties and commercial business frontage with residential upstairs or in the back of the building. At the time the amendment was adopted, it was never the intent to allow for single-family residences, especially on Pine Hill as a permitted or conditional use.”
Maddox blamed prior city administrations for allowing property owners to operate in violation of the code.
“Over time, previous administrations chose not to enforce the land code, and, as such, property owners on Pine Hill did as they pleased and rented their properties as residential units,” Maddox said.
In addition to not promoting development downtown, Maddox said the lack of enforcement causes a shortage of tax revenue.
Maddox used his business figures for reference and explained that had he rented his coffee shop as a residence only, the city and Stone County Economic Development Partnership would have lost thousands of dollars in sales tax and ad valorem taxes.
Maddox clarified that he is not in favor of the city kicking out current tenants who were grandfathered in or those who live on Pine Hill in compliance with the land code.
He advocated the city uphold the code that is currently in place.
“I would recommend the city enforce the current ordinances, as they were written today,” he said. “Second, for those properties that did not properly apply for conditional permits for single-family residences, request them to do so.”
After Maddox finished speaking, other property owners spoke up about their concerns.
Roger White, who owns several properties downtown, said the city code overreached its boundaries in telling property owners how to manage their buildings.
White said that many buildings might sit vacant if not for residents living there. The lack of residents would be a financial burden to property owners operating in an economically depressed downtown.
Additionally, White stated that people had lived on Pine Hill for decades before it was declared an official business district.
“Would you rather have Pine Hill empty or with people living there in the property they bought and have paid their taxes on for over 20 years?” White asked.
The planning commission members did not discuss an official opinion. The matter was tabled until a future meeting.