“I’m going to live with this a long time, with y’all’s decision.” Those were words of an obviously frustrated Randy Lanier as he addressed Candler County Commissioners on Monday evening.
Lanier and wife Debbie, along with former neighbors, including Barbara Bruno, were present to voice disagreement with the County’s decision to approve a permit for more than 20 dogs for Chesapeake Plantation Outfitters, owned by Todd Reed. Chesapeake Plantation, which adjoins the Lanier property on Spell Road, is a dog-training business.
Originally, Commis-sioners denied Reed’s application during their June 3 meeting. Lanier was present at that meeting to protest the application, citing, among other issues, noises and smells that could result from a large number of dogs on the nearby property that could impact his enjoyment of his own property.
Reed was not present for the meeting. However, he attended the June 17 meeting to protest Commissioners vote without him being able to present his case. At that time, he provided a video of the business, showcasing his kennels.
It was agreed during that meeting that an engineer would go to the property to determine what impact the kennels could have on Lanier’s pond. The Laniers were present at that meeting to continue to protest the permit.
At the July 1 meeting, Reed and his attorney George Rountree returned to Commissioners asking for a temporary permit so that he could generate some revenue for his business, although the engineer was not slated to visit until later in the month. They were accompanied by neighbors Chris Carter and family who testified they had no problems with the dog-training business near their property.
After Commissioners Wayne Culbertson and Blake Hendrix stated that they had visited the property and believed it to be an “outstanding” facility, Commissioners agreed unanimously to grant a full permit.
On Monday, Randy Lanier questioned why he was not notified that the Reed permit was again on the agenda in July, although an engineer had not yet visited the site to confirm that runoff would not impact Laniers’ pond.
“Y’all approved (the permit) 5-0 after you turned it down 4-0 (in June),” Lanier said. “Why was the engineer not allowed to come on after the fact? Were you worried the engineer may prove my point?”
Lanier addressed another concern that had previously been brought up regarding the barrels that are used in Reed’s kennels.
“You also didn’t address the barrels. You specifically said in the ordinance barrels are not allowed and (Reed) said it was an industry standard and you all ate his lunch,” Lanier said. “Why didn’t you follow your own ordinance?”
Hendrix reminded Lanier that the ordinance said that barrels could not be used as a primary source of shelter. For the Reeds, Hendrix said, “the roof is the primary source of shelter. We didn’t know that (in June).”
County Administrator Bryan Aasheim reminded Lanier that the dog permit is not a nuisance ordinance and that Reed satisfactorily met the stipulations of the application process. “If there are other items, issues, such as the impact to your property, I think that is more in line of a property dispute or resident dispute,” Aasheim said.
“We have the ordinance that we have. We have the laws that we have,” said County Attorney Kendall Gross. “A private citizen is perfectly entitled to vindicate his rights on a neighboring landowner in court himself. That’s the providence of our justice system that you can use if you have a nuisance. The purpose of the county commission is not to act as an arbitrator, they are not out to mediate or settle disputes. With or without this ordinance, you are entitled to take him to court ... but you take him to court, not to a county commission meeting.”
“I didn’t expect anything when I came here tonight,” Lanier said, “but I came to voice my opinion. It looks like somebody was trying to hide something. Do things in the open, in the sunlight, above board.”
Former neighbor Barbara Bruno, who owned the property in question before Reed, stated that she believes the permit requirement for animals was written as a “knee-jerk” reaction to the German Shepherd hoarding case in January.
“If we actually had a reasonable ordinance in this county relating to dogs and property that made sense, we wouldn’t have neighbors having to take anybody to court,” she said. “You have not done due diligence in coming up with an ordinance that actually makes sense.”
Gross informed Bruno that the adoption of the ordinance was considered for about four months.
“The German Shepherd situation resulted in what could have been a catastrophe for the county from a financial standpoint (if the county had been required to pay to remove the animals),” Gross said. “The idea behind the ordinance was to keep track of the number of people who had that many dogs and, to a certain extent, make sure we didn’t have any more people who moved in ... from another county.”
“From my perspective as a property owner and someone who has lived in Candler County over 20 years, I expect my county commissioners to think of what my rights are and what is best for the county,” Bruno replied.
Commissioner Brad Jones then reminded Bruno of a situation regarding a proposed private landfill in the county in the early 2000s and how the citizens rallied against it. At that time, Jones said, people would have approved a land use ordinance as a knee-jerk reaction. “But if we begin to put (land-use) ordinances in this county” at the present time, Jones said, “I am almost positive you can’t fit the people in this room that would object to me telling them” what they could do on their property.