Lake Caroline service station hearing set
County supervisors are planning to hold a public hearing in January to discuss controversial convenience store zoning at Lake Caroline.
The hearing will address the zoning classification and commercial definition for the property located on the corner of Stribling Road and Caroline Boulevard where developers plan a convenience store.
Stribling Market, an 8-pump gasoline site outside Lake Caroline has drawn ire from residents going back as early as this summer.
Lake Caroline and nearby Ashbrooke Residents oppose the development and have challenged everything from the zoning to the land classification in a mystery that stretches back decades.
The project initially was approved by the Madison County Planning & Zoning Commission but that approval was rescinded last month as more information regarding the property continues to be discovered.
Andy Clark, attorney for the P&Z board, told supervisors on Monday that they “literally turned the courthouse upside down” concerning this case as the original land plats that date back to 1983.
Clark said the original master plan which everyone believed allowed for C-2 commercial development has been deemed inappropriate and incorrect.
Clark said the research revealed that a 2003 master plan showed the parcel consistent with P-1 PUD standalone district was adopted in 2008, following a Mississippi Supreme Court case regarding the Lake Caroline development.
Clark said the problem is there is no longer a P-1 PUD designation, that it was a relic used in the past, and the 2019 comprehensive ordinance made no mention of it.
“There’s no doubt that property is commercial, but what (kind of) commercial,” he said.
Board President Gerald Steen asked Clark if that meant the issue needed to go back in front of the P&Z as a rezoning, to which Clark said no.
Residents at the meeting, however, believe it should spur an entirely new rezoning request.
Brad McDill, a Lake Caroline resident, argued on Monday it should absolutely be a rezoning request and not just an opportunity for supervisors to arbitrarily select a designation.
“He’s putting you guys in a position to do something without all the information,” McDill said. “You don’t know what this should be or even asked to be in 1980.”
McDill said if there is a rezoning hearing, that gives residents an opportunity to know what the planned commercial designation is for the property in question.
“We don’t know what we’re fighting for,” he said, saying a rezoning petition gives everyone the same information.
Bill Hardin, a Lake Caroline resident who initially filed an appeal over the P&Z ruling, said any designation by supervisors that doesn’t take place from a rezoning hearing would be considered spot-zoning and illegal.
“What he’s saying is if it’s zoned a PUD, it needs an official rezoning,” District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter said.
“That’s what he’s saying, I disagree,” Clark responded.
Clark said the issue has come up once before within Lake Caroline with a piece of property that wasn’t defined and supervisors determined it was C-2.
Judith M. Fouladi, an attorney speaking out against the development, presented multiple documents to be entered into the minutes to keep a paper trail intimating whatever decision is made will be litigated in court.
One document she entered was minutes from the December 2008, meeting where the board then adopted the master plan. District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks did not vote on that issue since he was a Lake Caroline homeowner and was advised by the Mississippi Ethics Commission to not vote. The final vote ended up being 2-1-1 with Banks not voting at all. Fouladi then questioned if a 2-1-1 vote represented an affirmative majority of the overall body.
Clark was then asked by Baxter about Banks not voting and if he would have to not participate in future votes.
“If he recused himself from the prior vote he would probably follow suit,” he said, though he added he wasn’t speaking for Banks and that’s a decision he will have to make after talking with Board Attorney Mike Espy.
Board President Gerald Steen said all of this would have to be discussed and worked out before the Jan. 16, 2024, meeting and that this wasn’t the first time past boards have continued to haunt present boards.
“I will say it’s unfortunate we’re having to deal with this today,” Steen said. “This decision should have been made and finalized, it sounds like in ’02 or ’08.”