Judge sides with Putnam on
The Macon Telegraph/October 12, 2000
By Rob Peecher
A Superior Court judge Wednesday denied a request from the
United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors to allow the group to use
one of its buildings as a hunting lodge.
Ralph Goldberg, the attorney representing the Nuwaubians,
argued that the building was grandfathered in under current
Putnam County zoning laws. But Frank Ford, representing the
county, countered that the building was not legal when it
was built and therefore cannot be grandfathered in.
"That building did not legally exist in June 1997 when the
zoning ordinance was enacted," Ford said. "They can strip it
down to what was permitted - a metal storage building. ...
That's what they asked to build, that's what they were
supposed to build, and the problem here has always been
that's not what was built."
In denying the Nuwaubians' petition Wednesday, Ocmulgee
Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Hugh V. Wingfield III
said the Nuwaubians could use the structure for any use
permitted under the county's zoning laws on the
agriculturally zoned property, but first, the group has to
strip the building down to the metal structure allowed by
Following the hearing, representatives of the group
submitted a building permit application to the county
building and zoning office seeking to demolish at least a
portion of the building. Also, the group submitted a
rezoning application seeking to change the zoning of its
entire 476-acre property to agricultural. Presently the bulk
of the property is zoned for agricultural purposes, but a
portion is zoned residential.
The building, known as the Rameses Social Club, was built
early in 1997 and has been a center of controversy between
the Nuwaubians and county officials since.
When construction began on the building, there was no
building permit and a member of the fraternal organization
was cited for not getting one.
The Nuwaubians obtained a building permit from the county
for a 100-by-50-foot metal storage building with minimal
lighting and no plumbing. When construction was completed,
the building included plumbing. A stucco faade, a kitchen
and other small rooms have been added to the building, all
without permits. Wingfield's ruling means the additions and
plumbing will have to be removed for the group to begin
using the building again. The building has been padlocked
for more than a year under court order.
In 1998, Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills filed a civil
action against the Nuwaubians, seeking to have the building
padlocked. He said the group was operating a nightclub out
of the building in violation of state and county laws. The
judge presiding over that case issued a permanent injunction
barring the use of the building until it was returned to its
original permitted specifications.
A year ago, the Nuwaubians asked the county to issue a
building permit for the building as a hunting lodge. The
county building inspector denied that request, and his
decision was upheld by the county zoning board and County
The commission's decision was appealed to Superior Court,
leading to Wednesday's hearing.