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Brooklet approved FY25 budget, Mayor Gwinnett's rezoning request tabled, Hunter retires

The Brooklet City Council's June 20, 2024 meeting saw the approval of the FY2025 budget and significant discussions on contentious zoning issues, including a debated rezoning application for a property owned by Mayor Nicky Gwinnett. The session also included recognition of long-serving City Attorney Hugh Hunter, who is retiring after 18 years of service.
Brooklet City Council at June 20, 2024 meeting.

Brooklet, GA - The Brooklet City Council held its regular session on June 20, 2024, under the leadership of Mayor Nicky Gwinnett. The meeting, which commenced at 6:35 PM, saw the approval of the FY2025 budget, significant discussions on zoning issues, and the recognition of retiring City Attorney Hugh Hunter.

FY2025 Budget Approval

The council approved the FY2025 budget, which stands at $1.54 million, a 3% increase from the previous year. Councilman Bradley Anderson reported that while tax collections fell short at 90% of the estimated figures last year, the water fund saw a 20% higher collection than expected. The balanced budget forecasts $835,000 from taxes and permits, $557,000 from water and sanitation, $59,000 from fines and forfeitures, and other minor revenues.

Expenditures include $308,000 for administrative costs, $460,000 for the police department, $146,000 for street maintenance, and several other allocations. Anderson assured that there are no plans for a tax increase, and the city will accept the millage rollback rate.

Zoning Issues and Public Hearings

The meeting also tackled significant zoning matters. An application by G3 Ventures LLC to rezone 0.65 acres at 407 North Cromley Road from R-1 (Single-Family Residential) to C-2 (General Commercial) for a cabinet business sparked extensive debate. The property, owned by Mayor Gwinnett, has historically operated as a cabinet shop. The council discussed concerns over spot zoning and whether a special use permit might be more appropriate than a C-2 zoning change. The motion to approve the rezoning did not pass, and the matter was tabled for further discussion in July.

Additionally, the council reviewed an amendment to the code of ordinances requiring Planning Commission members to be Brooklet residents and addressing their compensation. While Councilman Harrison and Councilman Anderson supported compensation as a token of appreciation, Planning and Zoning Committee Chair Debra Alexander and Commissioner David Bircher argued for maintaining the volunteer status of these positions to ensure impartiality and proper use of funds. The motion to amend was approved with modifications.

Other Business and Approvals

  • Infrastructure and Development: The council approved a rezoning application for 19.28 acres on Old Leefield Road from R-1 to R-3 and discussed raising fees for the water and sewer projects to ensure bond payments.
  • Community Engagement: Aaron Carpenter from the Coastal Georgia Regional Commission discussed creating a new Master Plan for Brooklet, emphasizing the need for comprehensive planning and public engagement.
  • Local Business Support: Tiffany Guerrero of Love Tiffany Boutique presented a proposal for a downtown makeover, including new signage and a mural event, which was well-received.
  • Personnel Changes: Officer Nicki Garman was promoted to full-time, and Officer Richard Coleman shifted to part-time. Joey Williams was appointed as the Public Defender for the Brooklet Municipal Court.

Recognition of Service

The council honored retiring City Attorney Hugh Hunter, who has served since April 2006. Hunter expressed gratitude for his tenure and confidence in his successor, Ben Perkins. 

The meeting adjourned with plans to revisit several tabled items in upcoming sessions, including the food truck ordinance and further discussions on zoning applications. 

Continue reading for more detailed information on the June 20, 2024 meeting.

The June 20, 2024 regular session Brooklet city council meeting was opened at 6:35 pm by Mayor Nicky Gwinnett who led a prayer, after which the pledge of allegiance was led by Councilman James Harrison.

The Agenda was amended to reflect a change in language in item 6, then approved

Public Hearing Item(s): 

a. FY2025 Budget Review

Councilman Bradley Anderson said that last years budget was $1.486 million and that tax collection was overestimated; only 90% of estimated collections have been received.

Regarding the water fund, 20% more was collected than estimated last year.

The proposed FY25 budget is a 3% increase from last years, totaling $1.54 million.

“We have a balance budget,” said Anderson.

Year to date, Brooklet has collected over $1.587 million with the help of  dedicated grants, so while they cannot be spent in the general budget they are contributing to total collections. Brooklet has spent $1.3 million YTD.

Anderson is estimating that the city will receive $835,000 in taxes and various permits in the next year, from water and sanitation the city will receive $557,000, fines and forfeitures will generate $59,000, investment income around $2,000 and miscellaneous items will generate about $1,500.

Expenditures will include administrative costs of $308,000, Police department at $460,000, street maintenance at $146,000, community center operations at $11,500, cemetery operations at $15,000, water fund $451,000, and sanitation will cost $146,000; this totals $1.54 million and the city maintains a reserve fund of around $300,000.

Mayor Gwinnett mentioned that the Kiwanis club stepped up to help maintain the cemetery.

Anderson commented that there is no plan for tax increase, and the city intends to accept the millage rollback rate when the county sets the digest.

b. APPLICATION: TA2024-019:

An amendment to the code of ordinances of the City of Brooklet to require that members appointed to the Planning Commission be residents of the City of Brooklet; to define cause for removal of a Planning Commission member; and to utilize compensation for Planning Commission members

Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Kelly asked if the city can set verbiage that allows for committee members that would like to receive compensation to receive it, but also enable members to decline payment.

Councilman Harrison said that compensation is an incentive for the hard work of planning and zoning committee members. Councilman Anderson says it is a small expression of appreciation for the time and service they provide.

Debra Alexander, planning and zoning committee chair, said that members took their positions as volunteers to the city, and that citizens have expressed that they wanted to keep these positions as volunteer services. She furthers that this money could be used better.

David Bircher, commissioner, believes the public could perceive this money as a relationship with council that would make their decisions appear dependent; by volunteering this shows people that committee members have no obligation to council

c. APPLICATION RZ 2024-016:

G3 Ventures LLC. submitted an application to rezone from R-1 (Single-Family Residential) zoning district to C-2 (General Commercial) zoning district to allow for a cabinet business on the 0.65 acres. The property is located at 407 North Cromley Road. (Mayor Nicky Gwinnett's property)

Councilman Harrison asked attorney Hunter about his opinion of the ongoing zoning issue regarding Mayor Nicky Gwinnett’s property and business.

Hunter says the problem is an issue of spot zoning, because if this request is approved than anything that is allowed in C2 zoning (gas station, grocery store, etc. ) could appear in this lot. Further he said that as the ordinance is written, C2 zoning does not permit a cabinet shop and therefore would not alleviate Gwinnett’s zoning issue. He said that a special use order could be permitted. 

Councilman Roughton asked why C2 was requested and Sandra Gwinnett responded that three other cabinet shops in Brooklet are in C2 zoning.

The Gwinnett’s Attorney George Rountree said the building has been used for half a century as a cabinet shop and the neighbors have given affidavits of support. He said they are seeking C2 zoning rather than industrial because the other cabinet shops are operating under this zoning, and because commercial is more fitting than industrial in this residential area. Rountree says that the use of the site as a cabinet shop is a vested right as it has been in operation for many decades and the building was originally constructed without any zoning in place.

Attorney George Rountree

When it was initially zoned, as it was an accessory building to a house, the R-1 zoning was appropriate. The lots were later divided and the building now stands freely.

Attorney Perkins added that one solution could be “conditional approval” to allow for rezoning under limited purpose conditions just for a cabinet shop. He cautions though that this permit could pose problems with those condition years on with small notations on zoning maps being forgotten.

Melissa Bircher said she'd like to maintain North Cromley Road as long as she can, and does not want to see continuous rezoning of residential areas. Her home is not directly adjacent to property but is near.

Dave Bircher suggests that self proprietorship could offer a potential solution. He furthers that this road is too small for the growth that is taking place as it stands.

Barney “JB” Sineath who owns property but is not a resident of Brooklet, says that zoning in the 90’s was inappropriately allocated and asks if council has confidence in zoning ordinance and map.

Annette Wilson says this property goes back to Mayor Gwinnett’s grandma and grandpa, and she has lived next door since 1963, back then zoning was not a worry and the particulars were not fussed over.

Mayor Gwinnet commented after adjournment of the meeting that he is the one who originally initiated the efforts of trying to properly rezone the property and it has become an expensive and drawn out ordeal, as the council has been unable to make a decision. 

After discussion on these items the Public Hearing was adjourned and the Council continued with City business. 

City Council Meeting Item(s):

TABLED - AMENDED to redact “the first reading” and TABLED 6. Consideration of the recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Commission and possible motion to approve the first reading on Application RZ2024-016. (Mayor Gwinnett's property)

On April 9, 2024, the Planning Commission made the recommendation not to approve the rezoning request for application RZ2024-016.

Councilman Harrison motioned for approval.

Councilwoman Sheila Wentz said that a community member has expressed disapproval and she cannot give her complete support.

Councilman Anderson says that C2 zoning would not be appropriate.

There was no second of this motion, and the motion died.

Councilman Roughton motioned to table the item, and it will be discussed by council at the next work session and voted on in the July meeting.

APPROVED 7. Motion to approve the FY2025 Budget. 

APPROVED 8. Consideration and possible motion to approve the Planning & Zoning Commission recommendation for TA2024-019.

On May 16, 2024, the Planning Commission made the recommendation to approve with modifications, Section 1, and Section 2, and not to approve Section 3.

APPROVED 9. (WOODS EDGE) Motion to approve the first reading of an ordinance to amend the zoning map of the City of Brooklet to rezone property located on the Northside of Old Leefield Road, the tract to be rezoned containing 19.28 acres, more or less, and being designated as parcel 135 000022A000, Bulloch County Tax Accessors Office.

The property was R-1 and has been rezoned to R-3.

APPROVED 10. Consideration of a Motion to Approve the May Financial Reports as presented.

11. Discussion and possible motion to raise the ATC (aid to construction) fee and the WCIF (water capital improvement fund) fee and make any other changes in the Water/Sewer Ordinance for the sewer project, new developments, and allocations of capacity. City Engineer, Wesley Parker with Parker Engineering, LLC, and City Consultant Matthew Morris will be present to make the presentation.

City consultant Matthew Morris stated that raising the ATC fee to 9,000$ based on a projected installation of 850 city taps will meet bond payment goals

125 new taps in year 1 and 2, and 50 new taps all the way to year 14 would allow city to meet bond payment, and after year 14 the bond payment would be subsidized out of fund balance.

There is no ordinance to raise the fee for the first reading; it will be drafted and heard in July then adopted in august, where the July meeting will have bond resolution.

Morris comments that there is more than $1 million in “wiggle room’ to get through the first three phases of the project. 

Currently, Brooklet is losing money in the sewer agreement with Statesboro and new tiered rates will need to be defined for a more positive outlook. Increases will mostly impact “big users”.

An ordinance to confirm the new rates will be presented to council next month.

12. Recognition of guests who have requested to be added to the agenda

  • Aaron Carpenter- Coastal Georgia Regional Commission, Planning Director

Carpenter previously spoke with Mayor Pro-Tem Kelly about creating a new Master Plan for Brooklet and he has come to the meeting to discuss this and answer any questions. He works for a state established regional planning agency, that he described as “quazi-governemntal”

He says they are available to the city not just for the master plan but as advisors for future planning services.

The master planning process with complete rezone would have to consider Bulloch’s comprehensive plan, finding issues and development pressures, coming up with public engagement strategies, assessing data and make educated decisions about issues, and working on draft plan

Fee structure is based on specific services provided by the commission and Carpenter says that the costs are subsidized where they can be.

  • Love Tiffany Boutique -Tiffany Guerrero

Guerrero previously presented a Brooklet main street makeover concept to the council which included new boulder signage, landscaping and walkway painting/cleanup, benches/seating throughout downtown, and efforts to host a “paint the town” mural event.

Barney “JB” Sineath said he has been following the council since 1999, and finds that they have been divided immensely for two years. He also suggests that called meetings have become a problem regarding open meeting laws.

13. Recognition of guests who have signed up to speak


APPROVED 14. Motion to Approve the Consent Agenda from June 13, 2024 Work Session:

14.1. A Resolution to be signed for the Smart Bulloch 2045 (A Joint Comprehensive Plan for a Better Tomorrow Resolution & Plan).

14.2. Terry Mikell Concrete, LLC. Invoice difference of $1,070.00; on April 18, 2024, the following quote for the repair work to tear out and place the concrete was approved via email for $4,270.00:

-WEST LEE: 7x8= 56sq ft

-WEST LEE ST.: 12x11=132


-JOINER RD.: 4x21= 48sq ft

-BROOKLET I.G.A:7x12=84

-WEST LANE ST.: 21x4= 84sq ft (sidewalk)

-Pour back 6in deep with concrete with fiber.

Total $4,270.00

They did not pour 715 West Lane Street, so they took off $400.00 which brought the amount to $3,870.00, then on 05/21/2024 they poured 715 West Lee Street and for concrete and labor, which cost $1,470.00 which brought the total invoice to $5,340.00.

APPROVED 14.3. Review of a quote from Terry Mikell Concrete, LLC. for repairs to the sidewalks due to safety concerns 209 West Lane, 204 North Parker, Baker, and Parker across from Bank on West Lane, between 115-117 West Lee at the rear of Bank on West Lane, to remove the sidewalk and haul material off and pour back concrete; Concrete and Labor Total $3,620.00

15. Reports from committee members

  • Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Kelly expressed gratitude towards senators that are currently working on securing funds for the sewer project.
  • Councilman James Harrison commended that Council members joint effort to reach out about these grants and securing funding is appreciated.
  • Councilman Keith Roughton commented about the large number of work orders related to water issues and said that this is his reasoning for pushing for increased funding to water capitalization.
  • Councilwoman Sheila Wentz had no further comment.
  • Councilman Brad Anderson had no further comment.

16. Report from Police Chief

a. Gary M. Roberts

Chief Roberts says crime numbers are relatively unchanged but more summertime foot traffic calls for watchful eyes in the community; recently an 11 and 12 year old were found walking the streets in the dead of night.

He also commented that the owl is being released after rehydration.

17. Report from the Safety Coordinator

a. Jim Stanoff

Not present

Mayor Gwinnett commented that he is 99% sure that the generator grant has been received after many years of work by Stanoff.


APPROVED 18.1. Discussion and motion to approve the status change for Officer Nicki Garman from part-time to full-time, and Officer Richard Coleman from full- time, to part-time effective May 2, 2024.

APPROVED 18.2. Discussion and possible motion to appoint Joey Williams as the Public Defender for the Brooklet Municipal Court, to be paid $225.00 per court session.

TABLED 18.3. Brooklet Food Truck Ordinance Discussion and possible motion.

Hunter explained that council wanted food trucks to be able to apply for annual licenses at either the Newman center or festival grounds. Issues arose as organizers were not able to charge fees under “special events” and Hunter proposed that an amendment to the ordinance include special events

Mayor Gwinnett suggested tabling the item to the next work session.

APPROVED 18.4. Change Order #1 - 2024 Brooklet Street Improvements (PE24133)

The amount of this contract before this change order was $221,695.80, the amount of the contract will increase by the sum of $149,128.80, and the contract total including this and previous change orders will be $370,824.60.

NOT APPROVED 18.5. Discussion and possible motion to approve the Combined Brooklet-Pembroke UDC Proposal - Caleb P. Racicot - TSW.

18.6. Discussion and possible motion to approve Tucker Utilities, LLC Invoice for $46,675.00.

Council votes were recorded: 2-yes 1-no -2 absentions.

Presentation for Retiring, City Attorney, Hugh Hunter (April 2006 - June 2024)

Hugh Hunter joyfully accepted a card and a handshake from Mayor Gwinnett who congratulated him on his retirement. Hunter will receive a commemorative plaque at a later date.

“I have enjoyed my tenure at Brooklet…I think you’re getting a very good new city attorney, and I think you’ll be in good hands with Ben Perkins,” said Hunter. “Thank you for the opportunity and thank you for your service.”

Mayor Gwinnett (left) commends the service of Hugh Hunter.