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Owner says development ruined property

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POSTED: October 2, 2007 5:04 a.m.
While Gary and Armenda Barnes relax on the front porch of their coastal home, they reminisce about the marsh-front view they used to have before a 10-foot fence was built around their property, boxing them off from the new Yellow Bluff development.
Following the Barnes’ refusal for Yellow Bluff developers Ren Keel and Allen Brown to acquire their land, they have lost road access, and emergency and fire protection to their home, and their frustrations have only been compounded after the installation of the wooden fence, Gary Barnes said.
The Barneses are now involved in a lawsuit regarding the issues and attorney Jeff Arnold is representing Keel and Brown.
Arnold would only allow the Courier to talk to his clients if all three parties were present. Multiple phone calls were made to Arnold to set up the interview, but the attempts were unsuccessful.
Gary Barnes said since Keel closed off Yellow Bluff and Van Dyke roads — the only access to the Barnes’ land — the couple could lose their homeowner’s insurance because emergency vehicles cannot enter their property.
Fire Services Coordinator James Ashdown said, “I have determined there is no designated emergency vehicle access nor is there any designated access at all. I also spoke with Eastern District Chief Joe Martin, who is in charge of the fire department that would be responding to the (Barnes’) area in case of an emergency, and he is in agreement with me.”
“When the Yellow Bluff construction began, the developers bought the road (Barnes) was using as an access point to his land,” county road coordinator Clinton Wells said. “But in my understanding, (the developers) were going to fix it so Barnes would still have access to his property.”
The road Wells is referring to is Yellow Bluff Road, and since a portion of this road is technically a county road, it comes down to a legal issue because a private citizen is not allowed to purchase roads belonging to the county, Wells said.
In regard to this legal issue, the county commission will begin procedures to abandon this portion of Yellow Bluff Road. They plan to hold a public hearing on the issue and a final determination will be made concerning the final proposed abandonment County Administrator Joey Brown said.
Brown said property owners on the section to be abandoned will be contacted, and if the county abandons the road, then the adjacent property owners would be able to bid on it.
Barnes will be one of the property owners contacted, but Brown said that even if he acquires this portion of the road, he still might not be able to construct an entry point to his property because the Yellow Bluff developers already installed concrete curbing along all of the roads.
“Without road access, Armenda and I have to jump a curb, drive over Yellow Bluff property, and drive around a corner of the fence to reach our home and, needless to say, this situation is incredibly frustrating,” Barnes said.
According to Liberty County Zoning Regulation 6.2.2, the 10-foot fence adjacent to the Barnes’ property can only be a maximum height of six feet, he said.
During next week’s Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission meeting, the legality of the height of the fence will be discussed and a variance (a deviation from the regulations) could be granted to Keel to keep the fence at its present height, LCPC Zoning Administrator Debra Attical said.
“How can you grant a variance for a fence that wasn’t even permitted to be built in the first place?” Barnes asked. “Keel and I may reach an agreement or we may never reach one. In the mean time, I’m just asking Keel and the county to restore my property rights so my wife and I can enjoy the peace of our neighborhood.”
 

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