Goreham broke in at the start of the meeting to say she wants to rescind the June 19 zoning hearing vote that effectively shuttered the stand. After the meeting, Goreham said she will vote to rescind the earlier action, then recuse herself when the case is heard again.
“I didn’t give enough consideration for the perception of a conflict of interest,” she said.
The move could overturn the commissioners’ 3-2 denial of a two-year land use permit request for Smith’s Produce, located at 4509 Austell Powder Springs Road in southwest Cobb. After the vote, more than 150 people signed a petition asking the county to reconsider its decision. Some pointed the finger at Goreham, whose assistant, Annette Friant, was the only person to speak in opposition to the fruit stand, which sits across the street from Friant’s home.
Commissioners are required to give notice at a meeting before the next month’s zoning meeting to rescind a vote.
Brothers Jeff and Julian Smith took the produce stand over after their father, Charles “Paw Paw” Smith, died of a brain tumor on Dec. 4, 2011. When they tried to renew the two-year land use permit their father had gotten from the county for more than two decades, it was voted down by the Board of Commissioners, despite being recommended by county staff and the Cobb Planning Commission.
Southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott and Chairman Tim Lee joined Goreham in voting to deny the land use permit while instructing code enforcement not to take action against the fruit stand for the rest of 2012. Commissioners cited concerns that the Smiths brought in some of their produce from the Atlanta Farmers Market, which makes it ineligible for county rules allowing produce stands that raise all their own fruits and vegetables to operate on residential property.
They also accused the fruit stand of changing its zoning from commercial to residential in order to pay lower taxes. Though they weren’t allowed to respond at the zoning hearing, the family later said that the stand itself, which is connected to Charles Smith’s former house, had always been zoned residential, but he had changed the zoning on an adjacent lot from commercial to residential after buying it.
Southwest Cobb Commissioner Woody Thompson, whose initial motion to extend the land use permit for a year was voted down last week, and northwest Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, had voted against denying the land use permit.
When reached by telephone Tuesday night, Jeff Smith, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s meeting, lauded Goreham’s change of heart.
“It’s outstanding,” he said. “She did the right thing because she was dead in the water. It was a conflict of interest.”
When he returns to appear before the Board of Commissioners, he will bring a crowd of supporters with him and may chose to have a lawyer represent him, he said.
“I need to step back and let legal counsel be there for me,” he said. “I can get a little emotional.”
Ott, who had said he was concerned about the misinformation on the property’s earlier rezoning that was presented at the June 19 meeting, declined to comment on Goreham’s move after Tuesday’s meeting.
Also Tuesday, commissioners voted 5-0 to approve an agreement with San Mateo, Calif.-based Extend Health that will transition existing and future eligible retirees to a Medicare exchange program effective in 2013. County Human Resources Director Tony Hagler said the program will reduce the county’s medical expense by 20 percent, or $1 million, next year.
The plan will have recommended monthly contributions of $355 per eligible retiree and $255 for their spouse.
Retiree Linda Edwards of Acworth spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, saying she would like for retirees to be offered the choice to continue with group coverage, even if it meant paying higher premiums.
“The loss of our reliable group plan supplement has been a concern to all of us,” she said.
In other action, commissioners:
- Unanimously approved designating six open records officers to help with compliance with Georgia House Bill 397: Rob Hosack in community development, Kathy Gordon in 911 communications, Ellen Black in fire and emergency services, Lt. T.R. Alexander with Cobb Police, Faye DiMassimo in transportation and Communications Director Robert Quigley for all other concerns. Their names will be posted on the county’s website as contacts to handle open records requests.
- Unanimously approved a five-year update to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and Atlanta Regional Commission.
- Unanimously approved a $5.4 million contract with Baldwin Paving Company Inc. of Marietta to improve Floyd Road between Clay and Hicks roads. The project was initially part of the 1994 SPLOST and was later rolled into the 2005 SPLOST. The Georgia Department of Transportation will pay $2.3 million of the project’s $4.9 million construction cost, with the 2005 SPLOST paying for $2.6 million. Another $661,449 will come from the Cobb Water System to go toward its improvements on the project. C.W. Matthews of Marietta finished second in the bidding at $5.7 million, while CMES Inc. of Lilburn bid $6.1 million.
- Unanimously approved a $757,561 contract with GS Construction Inc. of Lawrenceville for sidewalks on Hicks Road between Frontier Trail and Floyd Oaks Drive. Baldwin finished second at $792,655 and CMES was third at $842,291. The project is funded with the 2005 SPLOST.
- Unanimously approved a $909,586 contract with Johnson Landscapes Inc. of Cumming for sidewalks on County Services Parkway between Powder Springs and Austell roads. Baldwin bid second at $942,189 and CMES was third at $946,230. The project will be funding by the 2005 SPLOST.
- Unanimously approved a 2011 SPLOST–funded project that will replace tennis center buildings at Harrison, Kennworth and Terrell Mill parks for $116,300.
- Unanimously approved a 2011 SPLOST–funded project for heating and air conditioning installation at the future Juvenile Court site at 32 Waddell St. The winning $512,000 bid from Bardi Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. of Norcross was lower than the $557,221 bid from Buford’s John F. Pennebaker Company Inc.