Agent vows to sue to get permit for facility known as Rameses
July 17, 2002
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton -- The five-year struggle by the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors to obtain a building permit appears headed back to court after the County Commission voted Tuesday to uphold the county engineer's decision to revoke a permit for the building. Now calling the building a "private hunting lodge," Al Woodall, an agent for the property owners of the Nuwaubian village said he "most definitely" will file a lawsuit against the county to force it to grant a permit for the building known as Rameses.
During a commission hearing Tuesday, Woodall discussed the recent history of the building. He said he has worked in good faith with the county attorney, the county's engineer and one of the commissioners to bring the building into compliance with county codes.
After Nuwaubians received a permit for the building in April, Woodall said county engineer Robby Howell revoked the permit and put a stop-work order on the building in May.
Howell said the permit was revoked because the use proposed for the building - a hunting lodge - is not allowed in an agricultural district under the county's zoning laws. Woodall has also submitted permit applications stating the intended use as a fellowship hall, but the county rejected that, too.
Rameses was originally issued a permit as a 50-by-100-foot storage building in 1997, and it has been at the heart of the zoning and building permit battle between the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors and the county for five years.
In 1998, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills successfully sued to prevent the Nuwaubians from using the building after seeing TV news reports showing the building was being used as a nightclub. Though its permit allowed for no plumbing and limited electricity, the building was constructed with public bathroom facilities and a kitchen and was larger than the 50-by-100-foot permitted size. The building also had extensive wiring.
Howell said Tuesday that among the reasons prompting him to revoke the permit was that the plans submitted in the latest permit application are not consistent with a hunting lodge.
When asked during a planning and zoning commission hearing last month about whether ammunition would be stored in the hunting lodge, Woodall replied, "The owners see a broad scope of hunting. Hunting doesn't always necessarily mean that you have to kill. Hunting is to hunt. And anything associated with wildlife and nature also falls up under hunting, as well."
Following the commission's denial of the appeal Tuesday, Woodall said the Nuwaubians are religious people and will use the building "for whatever is allowed" under county zoning ordinances.
The Nuwaubians are a primarily African-American segregationist group with a 476-acre village at 404 Shady Dale Road. The group has been in Putnam County for about 10 years and has had numerous legal problems with the county about building and zoning issues for the past five years.
Nuwaubian leader Malachi York was arrested by the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and the FBI in May. He is being held in federal custody without possibility of bond and faces four counts of transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them. York faces an additional 116 state counts in Putnam County, mostly on charges of child molestation.
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