One Bryan County commissioner said Dec. 8 that he felt like the Grinch who stole Christmas.
North Bryan resident Sarah Williams applied for a special event license Dec. 8 to run a Christmas Festival, including 75 vendors, food vendors, a carnival and other events on her 90-acre property at 1159 Wildwood Church Road, which she expected to draw 500 people a day.
Williams said she had been hosting events, including wedding receptions and a recent balloon festival, at her property over the past several years without realizing a permit was necessary.
“I was unaware that I needed a special permit for this kind of event,” Williams said.
After recent discussions with Audra Miller, county community development director, she became aware that a permit was needed and the process began.
Miller told the commissioners that her concerns revolved around COVID-19 issues, public safety, damage to a dirt road by hundreds of cars entering and leaving the site, among others.
“The applicants said they expected up to 500 people per day from Dec. 2 through Dec. 27. The start date is now contingent upon the commission approval and the board of health processing their application,” the community development director said.
Miller said the application for a carnival requires the approval or disapproval of the county commission, unlike other events that would allow the community development director to approve the application.
“This is a very complex type of use. It’s a carnival and probably one of the largest uses seen in recent times,” she said.
Signage, parking spaces available and waste disposal were other issues that Miller raised.
Commissioner Brad Brookshire asked if a public hearing was required to notify surrounding property owners about the event.
“There is actually nothing in the code that requires a public hearing. It just says the board has to approve. The board always has the discretion to hold a public hearing,” Miller said.
Local attorney Lloyd Murray, representing property owner Sarah Williams, told the commission that Sarah Williams had been operating Lucy Belle Farms since 2015.
Williams said she never had a permit before or never had to ask for a permit.
“Ms. Williams has complied with the requirements she was given on a list by Ms. Miller. This is a venue that has had events going on for years and, candidly, she needs to address that issue, which I assure you after tonight will be addressed, but she’s been never told she needed anything after 2015. She has events booked from December through next year that probably would require a permit. At this point, it would be our request of the board to move forward,” Murray said.
After considerable further discussion, commissioners Wade Price and Noah Covington voted in favor of issuing the permit, with commissioners Gene Wallace, Brad Brookshire and Steve Myers voting against, which meant the permit application was denied.
Commissioner Gene Wallace said he felt like the “Grinch who stole Christmas.”
In other business, Commission chairman Carter Infinger presented outgoing commissioner Steve Myers with an appreciation plaque for his eight years of service as commissioner on the county commission. Myers chose not to run for a third term and Dallas Daniel was elected and will be sworn in Jan. 1.
The commission approved the unified development ordinance, despite constitutional objections raised by attorney Bill Glass, who represents the Home Builders of Greater Savannah, which includes Bryan County.
Other county business included:
• Reappointing Nevin Patton to the county board of elections and registration.
• Adopting the 2021 operating budget.
• Approving the conditional use permit for Robbie Ward, acting as executor for the Estate of Charlie Stafford for an storage yard for the parking and storage of tractors and trailers for Sysco Food Service at 40 Chandler.
• Approving changing the solid waste contract to Atlantic Waste Services because of a substantial cost saving.
• Approving the purchase of a type 1 ambulance for $220,000 from First Class Emergency Vehicles.
• Awarding the contract to Emergency Tactical Rescue Vehicles for $216,276 for two ambulance remounts.
• Approving a contract for $105,412.06 to EagleView for an aerial flyover of Bryan County. The flyover information will be used by various county departments, as well as updating the county’s geographic information system (GIS)capabilities.
• Approving a sewer service agreement with the city of Savannah for a sewer pumping station station and force main. The cost of the construction is in excess of $12 million with the city of Savannah contributing $5 million to the construction costs.