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Special exception issued; neighbors upset
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A few people were a bit miffed after the Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved a special exception for a resident of Isle of Wight allowing him to live in his motorcoach on his property. The decision was made at the July 15, mid-month meeting.

The commissioners heard a request from David Cheney, for a special exception to live temporarily, no more than one year, in a motorcoach on his property on East 1 Street at their July 6 meeting.

Cheney explained his formal residence had sustained significant damage from Hurricanes Irma and Michael. He said he was having ongoing issues with the insurance claims and he said when COVID hit, that further delayed repairs.

The motion was tabled to allow District four Commissioner, Maxie R.  Jones IV, an opportunity to look into the matter within his district. 

Nirav Gandhi from the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission once again presented the matter. He reminded the Board that none of the residential areas zoned R-2 within the county allow individuals to live in a motorcoach on their individual lots. 

Jones said he spoke with Cheney and has received several phone calls and emails from his neighbors. 

Gandhi said the special exception is strictly related to living in the motorcoach and not any of the rubble or other related complaints the County has received. 

Gandhi explained that the special exception meant that Cheney would need to have a new home built within a year or would have to come before the Board again for an extension to his special exception. He reminded the Board the reason Cheney was brought before the Board was because he was cited for violating the R-2 County ordinance. He went before Magistrate Court who informed Cheney, he would have to petition the Board for a Special Exception to remain living in the motorcoach.

Cheney spoke saying the “so-called rubble,” was actually building materials he planned to use to construct a living shoreline. He admitted the entire process has gone on far too long. But he said the Small Business Administration has a back-log of cases and COVID has disrupted the process as well. Cheney promised if the job is not done soon, he would not come before the Board again to seek another exception. He said he thinks construction will begin within a month.

As in the previous meeting, neighbors expressed their opposition at the meeting and through comments on the County’s Facebook page. Representing several neighbors, Frank Versele read a letter from Cheney’s immediate neighbor Reggie Woods.

“On behalf of Mr. Reggie Woods,” he began reading. “I’m writing in regards to Mr. Cheney’s request to extend staying in his camper for another year in the Isle of Wight community. His camper has already been there two years. This will set a precedence for everyone to get a variance to an ordinance to stay in campers all over Isle of Wight. I am his immediate neighbor and against this special exception.” 

Versele went on to read Woods’ statement saying Cheney’s attempt to sue FEMA and other entities meant that the ongoing litigation would likely make it impossible for him to construct a new home within a year and likely that he would request another special exception.

At the July 6 meeting, Versele said Cheney keeps a demolished residence, stores a huge pile of rubble on his property to include a dilapidated in-ground pool. He said Cheney has been in violation of the county ordinance restricting motorhome for two-years.

Jones said most of the calls he received were in opposition to the special exception, but he also understood both sides of the issue. He proposed the special exception be granted but for only a six-month period, and with the condition that progress can be shown or measured.

“If we don’t see the house being built,” Jones said. “Then we would not extend the variance anymore.”

Commissioner Gary Gilliard asked why it has taken Cheney so long to go ahead and move forward with the living shoreline construction being that the material is already onsite. 

“That could be put in motion now,” Gilliard said. “I mean it is just standing there. I mean people have been complaining about it…That would be movement toward your motion…what’s the hold up on that? That could be done and be one thing checked off in that six-month period.”

Cheney had a reply but was away from the podium and not clearly audible.

The special exception was approved with the conditions as noted.

The Board approved the preliminary plat for the Alder Grove Subdivision and approved a lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management for fleet vehicles for the County. They discussed a firearms ordinance with County Attorney Kelly Davis but no action was taken on the matter.

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