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 OPINION PAGE - JANUARY 12, 2000 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
January 12, 2000

Nicholson Council Must Stay Firm On Zoning
Nicholson officials were to get their first look at the proposed zoning ordinance for their community Tuesday night, and there are expectations that the town will adopt a zoning ordinance later this year. It is currently the only town in Jackson County without a zoning ordinance.
It is crucial to the future of Nicholson that the ordinance be strong and enforceable, but there will be considerable pressure placed on the town council to approve an anything-goes sort of ordinance that will be zoning in name only. That must not happen. The town council must firmly enact an ordinance that will give it a means of controlling how the town grows and what it becomes.
Right now, Nicholson is fast becoming a mobile home community that will attract only residents who cannot afford better housing. Mobile homes are a crucial part of the housing mix in this and surrounding counties, but any community that allows their unrestricted placement will find itself getting very little development of any other kind.
But there is money to be made in Nicholson by developers who do not have to meet standards there that they would elsewhere. The town council spends a lot of time dealing with substandard roads and, in one case, complaints of raw sewage on the ground, because developers can be held to no standards. Other people have profited by moving old mobile homes onto any available space to create rental property that contains few amenities, no charm and would be considered a blight on the landscape in most other towns.
Those forces will muster against the town council. They will not willingly give up the ability to expand their holdings or to develop unchecked. But if Nicholson is to have a viable future as a community, its government must have the means to control the growth and development within its borders. Without zoning protection, very few people will be willing to invest in stick-built housing or businesses when they know someone could build an auto junkyard or a rental mobile home lot right next door. Without zoning that works, the trend in Nicholson will continue toward low-income-only housing.
As the 21st century begins, Nicholson stands at a crossroads. Whether it evolves into a huge low-income, low-rent neighborhood or into a community which people of all socioeconomic groups can call home will depend to a large degree on the quality of the zoning ordinance now under consideration. And that depends upon the fortitude of the members of the Nicholson Town Council.


A Shameful Controversy
It should be patently clear that the United States is using Elian Gonzales, the 6-year-old Cuban youngster fished out of the ocean last month, in a disastrous attempt to press its long-standing feud with Cuba.
Law and common sense dictate that the child be reunited with his father, and that his father should determine where the boy will live. But too many people are succumbing to the pressure of Florida's Cuban refugees, who say the child should remain in Florida rather than return to Castro's Cuba. To thumb their collective noses at Castro, the expatriate Cubans will use the 6-year-old, and the United States is all too obliging.
All evidence suggests that Elian has a strong and supportive family (father and both sets of grandparents) in Cuba, but anti-Castro sentiment has made a 6-year-old a pawn in a purely political struggle.
The boy belongs with his father, not his aunts and uncles, and that's exactly how the matter would have been resolved had Elian Gonzales come from any other country but Cuba. The whole controversy is shameful.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
January 12, 2000

Progress Shown In Stories Printed During Past Year
I have, in the past, used the first or second newspaper in a year to project the stories I hope or would like to see in the upcoming year, some in seriousness and some in jest.
It is a measure of progress that some of the stories I projected were actually written last year. Among them were:
·Jackson Voters Approve Government Change. You didn't need to be Jeanne Dixon to see that one coming, but it was still a relief when it actually happened.
·County, DOT Break Ground On Access Road From U.S. 441 to Georgia 98. It came late, but the county finally began work on the first leg of this road. Maybe in 2000 I'll get to write a story saying it's finished.
·Chamber Membership Tops 425. You could see this one coming too, and the chamber continued its growth during 1999, and it will do the same this year.
·County, Cities Reach Agreement On "Shared Services." It happened. It goes to show that sometimes it pays to dream. Who would have thought that the House Bill 489 package from Jackson County would be a model for other cities and counties?
·Y2K Problem Declared To Be A Hoax. Actually, it wasn't ever declared a hoax, but after nothing happened Jan. 1, a lot of people are thinking it was all just a scare tactic to sell computers and software (and newspapers).
Unfortunately, those were the only stories that I'd expressed an eagerness to write that I ever got to do. No such luck with the Falcons winning the Super Bowl, Saddam Hussein renouncing violence, county tax bills going on time and the Commerce Streetscape project being completed. You can't win them all.
So, what is there to look forward to writing in 2000? What news stories would constitute great good tidings for Commerce, Jackson County and beyond? Well, here are some headlines I'd like to see in The Commerce News or elsewhere:
·Nicholson Adopts Tough Zoning Ordinance: Nicholson will probably adopt a zoning ordinance, but will it have teeth? Details will come later this year.
·Strong Slate Of Candidates Qualify For Commission Seats: This is the year we fill the first 5-member board of commissioners. We need good candidates as the government changes.
·Commerce Gets 4 MGD Permit For Water Plant: Work is expected to be completed by this summer on the "high-rating" of the city water plant, after which the city expects the state to allow it to double the amount of water it pulls from the city reservoir. The city will need the water.
·Test Scores Excellent In All Local Schools: I'd settle, at least for one year, with Test Scores Average In All Local Schools. But Excellent would be, well, excellent.
·Streetscape Finished: There is very little to be done, but this project has run longer than the Energizer Bunny.
·John Rocker Says "No Comment": If he's going to survive in baseball, the Braves' closer is going to have to learn to close his mouth.
Who knows what the new year will bring. There will be stories of wonderful news, of tragedy, of success and failure. Hopefully, some of these headlines can be published in 2000.


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