Monday, November 21, 2011

Overlay Zone: Deke Plays Favorites and Who Really Represents Laney-Walker? (videos)

Mayor Deke Copenhaver  Nov. 21, 2011
November 21, 2011
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider  
As we told you last week in City Stink: Dee Mathis Wins Battle over Overlay Zoning District, the Augusta commission decided in a 4-6 Vote to table the Overlay Zoning District until the first commission meeting of 2012.

We thought it might also be informative to give you some of the dynamics at that Nov 15th commission meeting involving the Overlay District vote and how the mayor showed blatant favoritism to one side and pushed the envelope of parliamentary procedure and protocol.

Double Standard
At the beginning of the meeting, Dee Mathis, a homeowner in The Laney-Walker neighborhood, and Al Gray, a property rights advocate, each gave  5 minute presentations before the commission urging them to deny approval of what they said was a flawed and incomplete application for the Overlay Zoning District. It would be the only time they were allowed to speak. Following the proper protocol for citizens speaking before the commission, both Mathis and Gray went through the proper process with the clerk of the commission to be on that day's meeting agenda.

The problem is that the overlay district vote was not on the regular agenda until an hour later into the commission meeting well after Ms Mathis and Mr Gray gave their presentations. When the item finally did come back up on the agenda for a discussion and a vote, Mayor Deke had a little surprise for everybody.

Out of the blue, the mayor says that he has received a letter from Pastor Aline Scott of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association in support of passing the  overlay application. Though Ms Scott was not on the agenda to speak, Deke calls her forward to give a presentation nonetheless. After Ms Scott's "impromptu" presentation, the Mayor gives some commentary about those in opposition being "resistant to change". (See video below: click play button for excerpt):

Later on, in the following video, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle (Dist 8) raises some concerns over the proposal because of conflicting information. Dir of Planning and Zoning, George Patty, then attempts to answer some of his questions. Then, once again, the Mayor gives "surprise guest" Pastor Aline Scott a second opportunity to speak. Pastor Scott makes an incorrect statement that the current zoning laws in Laney-Walker don't restrict "anything". That is not true. Most of Laney-Walker is currently zoned single family residential, so in those areas it is prohibited for someone to put in commercial or industrial uses. But notice how the mayor continually vocalizes his agreement with Pastor Scott. After she concludes speaking for the second time, Commissioner Alvin Mason rebuts the mayor's earlier remarks about opponents just being "resistant to change". (See video below: click play button for excerpt)

No Rebuttals for the Opponents
It is important to note that the Mayor never allowed Ms Mathis nor Mr Gray a second opportunity to speak before the commission to rebut the points made by Pastor Scott and George Patty, a privilege afforded Pastor Scott, who was not even on the meeting's agenda to speak. Also, the Mayor never asked if there were other residents in the commission chambers who were in opposition to the overlay vote. In a preceding non-related zoning matter, the mayor asked for a show of hands of who was there in opposition and support. But the Mayor conducted no such informal poll when it came to the vote for the overlay district for Laney-Walker. Considering that Ms Mathis and Mr Gray made their presentations more than an hour earlier at the beginning of the meeting, the arguments they raised seemed like a distant memory; whereas George Patty and Pastor Scott were able to make their arguments right before the vote was taken. But in the end a majority of  commissioners did have  long  memories and sided with Ms Mathis' and Mr Gray's arguments.

Who Really Speaks for the Laney-Walker Neighborhood?
The mayor brought Pastor Scott forward as the representative of the Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association. It is important to note that a neighborhood association is not the same as a home-owners association. The Mayor also failed to mention that there is more than one Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association.  The association Pastor Scott represents meets at Dyess Park. A different association meets Antioch Baptist church. Was this other Laney-Walker neighborhood association solicited for their opinion on The Overlay Zoning application? Also, emails forwarded to show that Commissioner Matt Aitken was aware that there is more than one Laney-Walker neighborhodd association prior to the Nov. 15th commission meeting. In Dee Mathis' presentation, she begins to talk about this email from Matt Aitken and that is when the Mayor hushes her up saying that her time to speak was over.

Was Pastor Scott giving the official decision of the neighborhood association she is affiliated with or just her own personal opinion? There is no mention of any other members of this neighborhood association signing the letter of support for the overlay that pastor Scott had sent to commissioners. Also no one else from this neighborhood association spoke before the commission, only Pastor Scott. Was there an official vote by the board of directors of this neighborhood association to support the overlay vote? If so, when did this occur and do meeting minutes exist documenting such?

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
After Pastor Scott makes her first presentation before the commission Mayor Deke then prompts her to "state for the record" her home address, ostensibly to show that she indeed represents and speaks for the Laney-Walker neighborhood. But listen to her answer. It is very revealing. (See video below:click play button for excerpt):

Where is 28 Park Place Cir. Augusta, GA 30909?  It turns out that Pastor Scott isn't neighbors with Ms Mathis or anyone else who actually resides in  the Laney-Walker district. When we pulled up the address she gave the commission on Google Maps, this is what we found (see map below). Coincidentally, Pastor Scott is actually neighbors with Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who lives just across Skinner's Mill Rd at 75 Conifer Cir. Well it's a small world after all.

More to come.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for your efforts, Dee, Al and CityStink.

Tom Casey said...

Why didn't the local print and multi media bring this up? Thank you CityStink.