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Belle Meade birds can stay for 30 days

The exotic birds belonging to Kellie Gilmore and Charles "Wormy Newton has been granted a 30-day reprieve by the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners.

A recent fine levied by a local judge against the couple for violation of a county ordinance, also has been suspended at the request of a county commissioner.

The couple, who live in the Belle Meade subdivision near Thomson, appeared at the Tuesday, Oct. 19 county commission meeting to plea their case to commissioners.

Several weeks ago, the couple was denied a special variance from members of the McDuffie County Planning Commission.

"I am so delighted that I get to keep my little birds," Ms. Gilmore said after commissioners granted her a 30-day extension. "I came to the county commissioners because that was my last resort. I didn't know what else to do."

Mr. Newton felt the same way.

"These are pet birds," Mr. Newton said. "They're not regular old farm chickens."

Commissioner Paul McCorkle said he visited the site of where the birds are kept in the backyard of the residence of Ms. Gilmore.

"I didn't have any problem," Mr. McCorkle said.

McDuffie County Planning Director Fred Guerrant said his office had received 24 emails and 12 telephone calls -- all opposing the issuance of a variance for the fowl at the residence with the exception of one.

Mr. Guerrant said Ms. Gilmore and Mr. Newton were both allowed to address members of the McDuffie County Planning Commission at the Oct. 5 meeting. After a lengthy discussion, planning commissioners rejected the proposed variance.

Ms. Gilmore and Mr. Newton decided to appeal the ruling to the full board of county commissioners. Charlie Newton, however, did not participate because the elder Mr. Newton is his father. Another commissioner, the Rev. Fred Favors, was absent.

Mr. McCorkle later made a motion to grant Ms. Gilmore and Mr. Newton a temporary 30-day variance and suspend any fines that might have been assessed in the case until Mr. Guerrant has had time to research how other cities and counties address similar problems.

Commissioner Bill Jopling seconded the motion. It passed in a 3-0 vote with Vice-Chairman Sammie Wilson, Sr. also being supportive of the motion.

The issue is expected to be addressed at a future commission work session.

Web posted on Thursday, October 28, 2010

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