Commission denies Lawson's request
by Rory Doyle and Chance Wright
Oct 19, 2012 | 1753 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bolivar County resident and business owner Alfonzo Lawson's attempt to have property, located in the small delta community of Choctaw, rezoned from residential to commercial hit yet another snag Thursday evening as the County's Planning Commission returned a unanimous vote to deny Lawson's request.

Otis Hankins, vice chairperson of the Planning Commission said the main reason for the unanimous vote was last night's news of a third party owner involved with some of the land partials Lawson was building on.

"We did not have a choice but to turn down the application," said Hankins. "We had to consider the third party land owner, and we had nothing to confirm this land owner had signed anything because she's deceased."

Attorney Lee Gladden Jr., representing four Choctaw parties who are opposed to the rezoning, pointed out that Lawson's application was not complete without this owner's approval.

"Looking at Mr. Lawson's land use application that was presented to this board at last month's meeting, I have a couple of questions, or issues, that I would like to point out to this board," said Gladden.

"The application, which is dated Sept. 10, identifies Patricia Patrick as the owner of some of the lots in question that Mr. Lawson is trying to get rezoned," he continued.

Gladden went on to say that according to the county's tax records, all/parts of lots 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are in fact owned by a lady named Patricia Patrick.

"A question was raised at last month's meeting as to whether Lawson had authority from Ms. Patrick to actually submit the application," said Gladden.

At last month's meeting, Lawson had provided power of attorney documents but they were not recorded.

"I don’t know whether he has her approval or not," said Gladden. "Because I have not seen any evidence or report files giving him power of attorney with this Patricia Patrick actually authorizing it."

Gladden added that the application itself asked for lots 10-16 to be rezoned commercial.

"According to my research, the ownership of these parcels reveals two owners," he said. "Patricia Patrick owns lots 10-14; Rose Stowaway owns lots 15-16 and I don’t see where she is mentioned anywhere in the application."

The commission also heard supporters of Lawson, who asked to speak last on the matter.

The saga began on Aug. 6 when the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors heard Lawson 's request for a variance and after a heated discussion voted by a 4-1 margin to by-pass the planning commission and grant Lawson 's variance to continue rebuilding his business that was completely destroyed during an early morning fire on July 8. 

On Aug. 8, by invitation from the board, members of the Choctaw community were allowed to voice their objections to the board's decision allowing Lawson to rebuild. 

After their comments, the board decided to uphold their initial decision on the matter, 

After that meeting a party comprised of multiple Choctaw residents filed a civil suit against the board of supervisor. 

Pending legal action and by request from the board of supervisors, Linda F. Coleman, board attorney, sent a letter to Lawson requesting that he cease rebuilding. 

Lawson, in turn, filed a civil suit against the board of supervisors and continued to rebuild.

Even though the Planning Commission returned a unanimous decision against Lawson, Hankins said that the decision could be appealed.

"Mr. Lawson has an appeal process he can go through in order to get this correct, but he'll have to come back before the Planning Commission with the power of attorney on the third partial of land," added Hankins.

Gladden said he was pleased with the commission's ruling.

"I think the Planning Commission did a great job following the law based on the evidence presented last night," said Gladden. "I think the record speaks for itself — in terms of the evidence."

The Bolivar County Planning Commission meets every third Thursday of the month.

All attempts to contact Lawson's attorney Aelicia Thomas and District Supervisor Rev. Larry King went unanswered.