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August 17, 2007

PUBLIC COMMENT NEEDED, BUT WILL IT BE ALLOWED?
Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Map being “updated”

The Jasper County Board of Commissioners will hold a Work Session on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007 at 6:00pm. The Topics of Discussion (as of this writing) are:

1. Comprehensive Plan Partial Update
2. Animal Control Committee Recommendations
3. County Transportation Program (Whatever this means—it could mean buying more vehicles, paving roads, deciding which of our roads are “the worst ones”, or any number of things.)

During the regular BOC meeting on 8/6/07, there was a Public Hearing on the Update to the Comprehensive Plan. Commissioners had comments about the update. Some were about the Scenic Byway portions, others about locations of proposed EMS/Fire stations. Several people spoke, but one citizen, Mr. Ken McMichael, had an entire list of items he wanted changed. In particular he wanted:

• a commercial node (meaning convenience store) at Broughton Rd. & Hwy 142
• a commercial node Henderson Mill Rd. and County Line Rd.
• a heavy commercial zoning for new shopping center (like a Publix) at Hwy 212 W and Jackson Lake Rd

Mr. McMichael explained that this would bring Jasper County much more sales tax—it would “capture” the sales tax of people on their way to Newton County.
Please notice that all these “commercial areas” will be in the North part of the County. Roof tops and Market Analysis should be the determinant in locating commercial development as well what the neighbors want, not a random change to the Land Use Map.

TWG finds it strange that Mr. McMichael didn’t feel it was necessary to have any Commercial nodes or Heavy Commercial zoning at Goolsby Rd. and Hwy 11 S or near Hillsboro. A commercial area in this vicinity would have captured all that sales tax we are losing when people travel to Macon, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Michael then informed the Commissioners of a “Geological anomaly”. He said that near Highway 11 & Perimeter Rd. he wanted a possible “well field” protected and have the Land Use Map changed from “future industrial and high density housing” back to Agriculture. Mr. Michael informed the BOC that City of Monticello and JCWSA plan to do joint project in this area to supply City and JCWSA water needs. (TWG note: This project has been in the works for a couple of years. Documents obtained by the TWG show NO geologist report. Viable well fields could be a source of water, but these should be based on scientific evidence, and not personal opinion. Private property rights must be considered in all of Mr. McMichael’s recommendations.)

Comm. Bernard immediately jumped on this bandwagon and said, “What needs to be done to change [the plan] to add all Mr. McMichael’s recommendations?”
Chris Anderson answered saying they would have to amend the document. He informed them it MUST be sent to RDC for approval this month in order to get it done by Oct 31 and turned into DCA. Comm. Hill stated, “We need to have called meeting to go back over it.” Comm. Bernard then made a BIG DEAL about having night meeting to go over new ideas so the public could attend.

TWG certainly suggests that if you don’t agree with these items it would be in your best interest to show up at the meeting this coming Tuesday night and voice your opinion. Even though the meeting is deemed a work session, many that attended the regular meeting felt it was stated that there would have to be another public hearing since all these changes to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Future Land Use Map were going to be made. The land use map affects how areas in the County are zoned.

Since Comm. Bernard made such a big deal about having a night meeting, TWG questions why it states on the public notice that “Public comment during the work session will be at the discretion of the Board.” If the BOC really wanted the public to attend, the meeting would have been held at a convenient hour for people that work and have to travel home—7:00PM. BUT even more interesting is the fact that the resolution to accept the Comprehensive Plan with all the suggested changes is already prepared and ready to be signed at 7:30PM the same night.

As we all know, meetings and public hearings aren’t about being concerned about what the citizens think or want, they are about rushing everything through without really knowing or caring about what a contract or resolution really does or says.

TWG has observed on several occasions that the BOC defers to the County Manager or the County Attorney, asking if they have read it because the Commissioners haven’t done so. As long as they get a nod, they vote and go on their merry way, never knowing what they voted on. The consequences come later for the taxpayers to deal with.

Remember, the Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map which is being revised is one of the factors Zoning decisions are based on. These changes could affect you in the not so distance future. Now will be your chance to speak up about the changes. Attend the meeting Tuesday night if at all possible.

TWG
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