Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Executive Director Jeff Ricketson was explaining a rezoning request submitted by Paul Krebs to change zoning on property he owns along Airport Road and Barry McCaffrey Boulevard during the Jan. 6, 2022, city of Hinesville council meeting. Krebs is requesting a change from commercial zone 3 (C3) to commercial zone two (C-2) to develop 168 townhome units.
While explaining the petition, councilwoman Diana Reid asked Ricketson to explain the difference between C-2 and C-3 zoning, saying that at the May 6, 2021, council meeting, a rezoning request was approved for a proposed 40-unit apartment complex just down the road at Barry McCaffrey and Kelly Drive. The May 6 request was submitted by then property owner Horse Creek Partners, LLC.
While Ricketson explained C-3 allows for many more uses than C-2 does, Reid’s question was primarily her way of bringing another matter to the forefront.
“When it (the rezoning request) came to us, it came to us as Horse Creek,” she said, adding that after the May 6 rezoning, the property was sold to a new owner.
“And in keeping in line with what our city attorney said,” Reid continued, “I think things should be disclosed. If any of us has any property that we are going to develop, it should be disclosed. Let’s be clear, let’s be professional, and above all, let’s be honest.”
Not knowing if that was being directed to anyone in particular, Mayor Allen Brown was about to move ahead with the meeting when Reid interrupted, saying the person it was directed to was about to speak.
“Mr. Mayor, this is totally inappropriate,” city manager Kenneth Howard responded. “It has nothing to do with this property (Kreb’s rezoning request), and somehow we were able to bring my property into this.”
Reid interjected by thanking Howard for disclosing that it is indeed his property now that is currently being developed.
“First of all, let me say this, mayor and council, this has gotten way out of hand,” Howard said.
“I agree,” Mayor Brown said.
“I have people in the community coming up to me about this same type of situation,” Howard continued. “About people saying that I have property that I have stolen, that I have bought illegally and everything else, and
that is far from the truth.”
He then directed his next sentence to Reid, saying she was going to people’s houses, telling them about his property, and how it is inappropriate.
“I did nothing inappropriate,” Howard reiterated. “I paid for it, and that is not the only property that I have in the city of Hinesville. I have never been subjected to this kind of abuse and envy about what I have.”
Reid brought up a previous meeting where she “hypothetically” asked city attorney Linnie Darden whether he thought a city employee or official should disclose their development projects. Darden had replied, noting it would be a good idea to do so. At last week’s meeting, Darden confirmed that was his response.
However, Howard said he doesn’t have any obligation to disclose the information, and he didn’t own the property at the time it was rezoned. He purchased it later.
“At the time I had no interest, no ownership in that property,” Howard said. “So, there wasn’t any need for disclosure.” Howard went on to say the rumors and allegations that he has done something wrong are outright lies.
“I have worked my tail off for the last 30 years, and what I’ve done is above board, and I am very successful at it,” he said. “I will not apologize for my success.”
After the exchange and a public hearing, the council voted to approve the rezoning request from Paul Krebs.
Council approved a request by Liberty Properties and Holdings Co., LLC (Claude Dryden), for final plat approval and acceptance of dedications for seven lots on 1.29 acres on Marne Boulevard. They approved the final plat
approval and acceptance of dedications for a 51-lot subdivision on 17.27 acres on Grayson Avenue. They approved the final design for the Hinesville Fire Station and Administration Building. They approved several alcohol license renewals and an alcohol One-Day Special Permit to serve beer and wine during the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet and Taste of Liberty, set for Jan. 20, 2022.
During the councilmembers’ reports, councilwoman Vicky Nelson asked about a previously mentioned tiny homes project.
Howard said they are discussing a small house program to address affordable housing. He said they are looking to hire a replacement for Donita Gaulden, who was the director of the Community Development Department, before moving new projects forward. Nelson also brought up the issue relating to chickens being kept within the city limits and the city ordinance. Howard mentioned the city is in litigation with a current resident, adding that right now, it is at a standstill. Nelson also asked the city to look into a short-circuit TV program for the city to broadcast the meetings, noting she is still hearing from constituents complaining about audio and technical issues using Facebook livestream. During Howard’s report, he recommended the council extend the COVID precautions another 30 days. Read that story on the front page of today’s Courier.