County commission denied rezoning request on 2-1 vote

Efforts to have a 3.2-acre piece of property in Marion County rezoned from agricultural to commercial did not end with county commission’s “no” vote in early October. Lois Damron, the owner of the property, is asking the 10th judicial circuit court for a review and declaratory judgement that results in the property being rezoned commercial.

According to court documents, the petition was filed Oct. 31 on Damron’s behalf by John Wilcox of Wilcox & Williams, LLC. A hearing date has yet to be scheduled. The matter has been assigned to Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd.

The petition notes that after two public hearings before the county’s planning and zoning committee, on Sept. 28 the rezoning request was approved by the committee on a 6-0 vote.

The rezoning request then went before the county commissioners at their Oct. 2 meeting. On a vote of 2-1 the commissioners rejected the request to allow the triangle-shaped piece of property between Highway MM and U.S. 36 to be rezoned.

The petition points out that neither of the commissioners who voted to deny the request — Steve Begley and Larry Welch — attended the earlier hearings before the planning and zoning committee.

Wilcox contends it is legal to take the matter to the circuit court since the matter went before the commission as a “non-contested” case since “there was no evidence adduced, no sworn testimony, no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and no court reporter to record the proceedings.”

He adds in the petition that in a “non-contested” case “the circuit court does not review the administrative record, but hears evidence, determines facts, and adjudges the validity of the agency decision.”

While Presiding Commissioner Lyndon Bode declined to comment on Damron’s legal action, based on his remarks following the commission’s Oct. 2 vote, he is not surprised.

“It could still go on to legal action as we’re aware of what’s happened in the past,” he said, referring to a procedural challenge that was filed after the rezoning request was approved by the commission in January 2013, which prompted the Damron family to start the rezoning process over.

The Damron family would like to locate Hannibal Industrial Paint on the property, which reportedly has been deemed not suitable for residential use or as crop land. Damron told the commission on Oct. 2 that the “proposed business meets DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) requirements.”

On Oct. 2, nearby property owners expressed concern over possible chemical emissions from the business and over the impact the business might have on property values and landowners’ ability to sell their land in the future.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com