Pontotoc County commissioners voted to deny rezoning property on Stonecipher Blvd. from agricultural to commercial use at a meeting Tuesday morning.

The rezoning request was made by Nathan Dial in order to operate a part-time school bus maintenance and automotive repair business.

Robert Gray, Nathan Dial’s legal representative, said the shop building would not be visible from surrounding businesses.

“I know that all those entities have opposition to our request,” Gray said.  “I understand their opposition but I feel it’s a bit of a knee-jerk opposition.”

Gray acknowledged that Pre-Paid Legal Services, Interactive Response Technologies, Chickasaw Nation Medical Center and Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center are located in the area and East Central University owns land near Dial’s property.  Life Community Church is also building a chapel in the area.

“In no way does my client want to create an eye-sore for any of the other entities that own property out there,” Gray said.  He said Dial intended to build the shop and his home in the area regardless of whether the rezoning takes place.  Gray said rezoning would allow Dial to accept compensation for bus maintenance and automotive repair.

Dr. Steve Turner, ECU’s vice president for administration and finance, said the planned use of the area does not fit with current development.

“I would ask that you not support the recommendation simply because it’s not in the area’s long-term best interest, it does not fit anything that has developed, nor does it complement the significant investment that has been made and will be made in the future,” Turner said.

Friends and relatives of Dial expressed support of rezoning the area.

David Sherbert, a property owner in the area and friend of Dial’s, said he didn’t know why the rezoning was being opposed.

“I don’t understand what people are thinking,” he said.  “Is it greed?”

Harland Stonecipher, founder of Pre-Paid Legal Services, did not attend the meeting but sent a recording detailing his opposition to the rezoning.

Stonecipher said rezoning didn’t conform with the character of the area and Life Christian Church would have to find a new location if rezoning was approved.  After heated debate on the subject, Commissioner Justin Roberts made a motion to grant the rezoning with restrictions to be specified at a later date.  The motion died for lack of a second.  Commissioner Danny Davis made a motion that the property not be rezoned.  Commissioner Gary Starns seconded the motion and it passed with opposition from Roberts.

Commissioners voted to enact a burn ban for the county.  Commissioners said the reason they didn’t enact the ban earlier was because enforcement of a ban during July Fourth weekend would have been impossible for Sheriff John Christian.  Commissioners said there are several criteria that they have to meet to enact a burn ban.

Pontotoc County Emergency Management Director Chad Letellier said there were 30 fires from July 1-4, approximately 20 of which were caused by fireworks.