Lightning may not strike the same place twice, but in local government, rezones can get approved twice.
On Dec. 3, the Board of Commissioners is poised to re-approve a special use rezone to build a Christian college on 114 acres off of Barnett Shoals Road after having green lit the project in March 2017.
Construction on the Athens College of Ministry, which is accredited through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges & Schools and currently meets at Watkinsville First United Methodist Church, was stonewalled by a lawsuit filed in 2017.
The petitioner, Kevin York, is a neighbor who claimed that the academic institution’s curriculum did not meet the criteria of the county’s Unified Development Code. The BOC disagreed with York’s interpretation and fought the lawsuit in the Superior Court of Oconee County.
In July 2017, Oconee Superior Court Judge Patrick Haggard dismissed the lawsuit. York then appealed to the State Court of Appeals, which sided with York on his procedural arguments in November 2018.
Oconee County petitioned the Supreme Court of Georgia for a writ of certiorari, which is a judicial review of a lower court’s ruling. That request was denied, putting the case back in the hands of Haggard.
The attorneys involved in the lawsuit—David Ellison for Kevin York, Jim Warnes for Athens College of Ministry and Daniel Haygood for Oconee County—agreed to ask Oconee Superior Court Judge Patrick Haggard to remand the case back to the BOC, explained Athens College of Ministry President Marcia Wilbur.
The BOC will decide whether the Athens College of Ministry fits the county’s definition of a private college.
For more on this story, see the Nov. 21 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.