By Patti Dozier
THOMASVILLE — Despite a petition by a majority of property owners, a large delegation and outspoken opposition, Thomasville City Council on Wednesday approved a rezoning request by a City Council member.
Mayor Pro Tem Greg Hobbs requested rezoning of property he owns at 415 Alexander St. from R-1 to R-2 (conditional use).
Thomasville Planning and Zoning turned down the request. City Council approved the request on first reading last week and on second — and final — reading Wednesday.
Opponents of the council rezoning vote plan to take their concerns to the Georgia secretary of state.
Hobbs left the council table and sat in the audience as property owner after property owner in opposition to the rezoning addressed council members.
Lovetta Jones, 412 McKinley St., approached the council armed with a petition signed by 95 percent of property owners in the area — known as Dewey City.
“We are saying we do not want the rezoning. We do not want the duplex,” Jones told council members.
Rezoning and a duplex would lead to more traffic and drugs and other unlawful activities, Jones said. “It would generate overcrowdedness,” she added.
Jones thinks a duplex would lead to more of the same type of housing.
She told the council she has been told the property is not an historical site, but a sign says the area is the site of a War Between the States prisoner of war camp, where hundreds of men are buried.
If the duplex would be designed for low-income residents, those individuals already live in low-income housing, Jones said.
“You can’t get lower than the projects, I don’t think,” she said.
Jones said property owners in the area would prefer that Hobbs build two single-family residences.
She told the council Hobbs has been asked to consider Dewey City neighborhood residents who voted for him.
Said Jones, “We feel rezoning this land would have an immensely negative effect on out neighborhood.”
Jeffery Andre Espy, 307 Alexander, told the council he lives in an historic house and was not notified about the rezoning.
“Ignorance is bliss. I’m finding out now,” Espy told council members.
Espy contends the duplex would be illegal, pointing out Dewey City is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, adding that he wants the area’s historical significance to remain intact.
“You don’t have to be one particular type of property to be on the National Register,” Mayor Max Beverly told Espy.
Beverly pointed out that rezoning would apply only to the Hobbs property, three-tenths of an acre.
Pastor Pamela Kelly told the council, “That is the area we evangelize.”
“Some of us understand you are only talking about this one piece of property,” said Carlton Bryant, 219 Felix St. Residents’ concerns are about the integrity of the neighborhood, he added.
Jacqueline Bryant, 208 Forrest St., does not think Dewey City residents were properly informed by Hobbs or anyone else.
“ ... We are due that communication,” Bryant said.
“The required communications were followed,” Beverly told Bryant.
Hobbs said the structure he plans to build is a triplex, not a duplex.
“It’s one building,” he told fellow council members. Hobbs said he tried to talk to as many residents as possible “who would listen to me.”
Council Member Don Sims told Hobbs some concerns are about subsidized rentals. Hobbs said the two-bedroom, two bath dwellings would rent for $575 monthly, and there would be no government subsidy
“All my tenants work,” he said.
Interjected Council Member Jay Flowers, “It was suggested renters are criminals.”
Hobbs said his rental agreements call for eviction of law enforcement is called repeatedly to a residence.
Hobbs said he has built 14 residences in Thomasville and still owns nine of the structures.
Said Nancy Vickers, 117 Felix St., “I feel like we’re being treated unfair.”
“It was like you were trying to talk for him,” Vickers told Flowers, who asked Hobbs several questions.
Noting lawsuits, Beverly told the delegation the council “is not in a position” to reject Hobbs’ rezoning request.
Hobbs made a valid request in accordance with criteria the council must evaluate, the mayor said.
Jennifer Dyson, 615 Raleigh Ave., asked Beverly if she could speak without the mayor interrupting her “like you did everyone else.”
“Go ahead,” the mayor responded.
Hobbs should have to prove what he says, Dyson told the council, adding that she knows some of his tenants sell drugs and do not work.
“I know there is a high turnover for his property, moving in and out,” Dyson said.
Neighborhood Watch was organized in the area because of Hobbs’ property, she said.
Sims, who made a motion to approve the rezoning request, said he lives in an historic neighborhood that has duplexes and triplexes. The dwellings do not reduce property values and are not detrimental to the historic area, Sims told the delegation.
“I do not feel this zoning will be detrimental to your property,” he said.
With a second by Flowers, the rezoning request received approval from the four council members remaining at the council table.
After the meeting, Jones said, “I still think our voices are not being heard as residents and registered voters,” Jones explained, pointing out the petition.
Espy said the Georgia secretary of state will be contacted about a possible council ethics violation.
Every two years, the City Council elects a mayor to serve a two-year mayoral term. Jones considers Hobbs heir apparent to the mayor post.
She wants the Thomasville electorate to elect a mayor.
“The mayor should be voted on by the people,” Jones said. “That’s the first thing we need to do.”
Jones added, “He (Hobbs) doesn’t have any responsibility to the people.”
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.