Nudist resort owner wants fines dismissed|
White County News, Cleveland, GA USA
by Debbie Gilbert, White County News
Steve Foster, owner of Mountain Creek Grove nudist resort, argues his case to the White County commission as chairman Travis Turner looks on. Foster wants the county to drop liens against his property. The County says Mountain Creek Grove owes more than $222,000.
The owner of Mountain Creek Grove nudist resort appealed to the White County commission Feb. 1, asking the board to dismiss fines he owes for 16 code violations.
Steve Foster said he was the victim of “institutionalized harassment, particularly from a former county manager (Alton Brown) and a former county commissioner (Chris Nonnemaker).”
Mountain Creek Grove, known as The Grove, is located off Stovall Road, south of Ga. 255 and east of Duncan Bridge Road.
Foster said he bought the property in 2001 and “there were no problems I was aware of at the time.”
The 33-acre resort was founded in 1991.
The charges against Foster, which date back to 2005, include building without a permit and encroaching on a trout stream.
White County manager Carol Jackson said Foster currently owes $222,553, plus whatever interest has accrued.
Foster estimates the amount at ...
more than $240,000.
After the meeting, Jackson said she is not sure what Foster hoped to achieve by making a lengthy presentation before the commission.
“This is a judiciary situation, not an administrative situation,” she said. “The fines were imposed by (Magistrate) Judge Joy Parks. The county commission then imposed liens against the property. We can take a lesser amount for the liens, providing the judge has no objection, but we cannot drop the charges.”
Jackson said county officials already met with Foster and offered to settle for $150,000.
“He refused,” she said. “He wants the whole thing to just go away.”
In an interview with the White County News on Feb. 2, Foster said he will not consider a settlement because he hasn't done anything wrong.
“Most of those violations were either entirely false or loosely construed to be the truth,” he said.
“I need these fines dropped because anytime someone wants to buy a piece of property out here, I have to tell them about the fines, and it depresses the selling price. It's like a bad cloud over the title.”
Foster said he believes the charges against him stem from prejudice against nudists and that former county manager Brown had “a personal vendetta” against him.
During the Feb. 1 commission work session, most of the debate centered on the trout stream issue. Foster said Blue Creek is not a trout stream. Jackson and county planning director Harry Barton said it is.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division considers almost any tributary, no matter how small, to be a trout stream if it flows into the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River.
Trout stream buffers must be twice as wide as those for other streams in Georgia.
The commissioners expressed skepticism that Foster didn't know what the regulations were.
“I've known about that trout stream rule for 20 years,” said commissioner Joe Campbell, who is a builder. “I've had to adhere to it, even though it cost me money.”
Foster said the fines should be dropped because he has already corrected the problems.
“They asked us to move some structures that they said were within the trout stream buffer, and we did,” he said.
Commission chairman Travis Turner asked Foster to meet with Jackson again, to see if they could get the situation resolved.
Jackson said she will set up another meeting, but she isn't sure what will be accomplished.
“The county has already made it