By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 14, 2001
North Georgia is growing
The National Aeronautical and Space Administration has published
a composite picture of earth made at night. The picture shows
the areas of our world that are covered by the light of civilization.
One of the brightest areas of the night world is the eastern
coast of the United States of America.
This picture is important to us because it clearly demonstrates
the rapid growth of our area. North Georgia is becoming one of
the brightest areas on earth. A band of light now floods the
area from Charlotte, N.C., to Birmingham, Ala. Madison County
is in the center of that arc.
We are in the center of one of the fastest-growing areas of our
nation. There is nothing we can do to prevent population growth.
We can only take steps to direct growth into limited areas while
protecting as much of our agricultural lands as possible.
How do we control and direct growth areas? We can use zoning
laws to forcibly limit growth to preferred areas or we can develop
incentives that will make development more profitable in one
area, and keep agriculture profitable in another. I like the
Currently, Madison County is using both techniques. Farmers in
rural Madison County can gain tax relief by committing their
land to special covenants preventing subdivisions. This will
help keep predominantly agricultural areas undeveloped. At the
same time, the county is working hard to provide necessary infrastructure
for high-density development in the Hull-Dogsboro area in an
effort to direct population and business growth into that area.
A new water system will provide water for the Dogsboro intersection,
the Glenn Carrie Road area and the city of Hull. Plans to expand
the system along Hwy. 72, up to Diamond Hill and Neese are being
discussed. Early planning for a sewage system in the same area
is under way.
A new high-density area is being added to the county's development
map. The new high-density area will consist of a three-mile circle
around the city of Hull. Those areas previously set aside to
protect river corridors will remain the same or be enlarged.
The planning and zoning board has been given the tools they need
to help direct growth into the same area. Among the factors they
may use in determining if development will be allowed on any
property is the characteristics of the surrounding area. Requests
to develop land near other developments will usually be approved.
Requests to build subdivisions in a heavily agricultural area
are likely to be turned down.
If we use these techniques to direct growth into the southeast
area of Madison County, we will be able to keep the rural characteristics
we so love in the remainder - at least for a little while.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His
web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address
The Madison County Journal
March 14, 2001
Facts should be focus of Almond issue
Answers are few, but two things seem clear in the suspension
of Comer Elementary School principal Mac Almond - the longtime
school head has lost the trust of his superiors, while at the
same time Almond's support from many in the Comer community has
Almond has been principal in Comer for 26 years. Ask most anyone
in Comer and they'll tell you that Almond is a fine man with
kids' interests at heart.
So suspecting Almond of wrongdoing seems unimaginable and infuriating
to those who know him. Meanwhile, the dismissal of Almond from
work without revealing what he is accused of has confused the
People should keep pressure on school leaders to speak on record
about what is going on. The reputation and livelihood of a man
in a prominent public post hang in the balance and people are
eager for clarity - good or bad.
Citizens should demand a public forum in which accusations are
spelled out plainly.
People should also realize that Almond's reputation is not the
only one on the line. Those who accuse have also stepped into
There are many allegations being hurled at the county school
board. There is suspicion that the suspension is politically
motivated - perhaps tied to Almond's recent bid for the superintendent's
post. There's also speculation that the suspension is just a
way of deflecting attention from the school board's recent financial
No doubt, this county has had its share of political ugliness.
But those with theories about political motives should also consider
that drumming up charges to carry out some vendetta against a
beloved figure in the community would show an obvious lack of
political savvy. It would resemble a kamikaze action, an "I'm
taking you out with me" move.
There's always the possibility of that sort of thing, but it
seems unlikely here. And if this suspension is meant to deflect
attention from fiscal troubles, it is obviously ill-timed.
What's most likely is that school leaders have something they
think is truly bad and they want to be careful about how they
present it - thus the silence.
If that's the case, caution is understandable, but there should
be equal consideration to the damage prolonged silence from leaders
may cause. They may foster an atmosphere of gossip and innuendo,
where "facts" take shape from whispers.
The BOE might want to consider summoning an outside agency to
investigate whatever wrongdoing school leaders believe Almond
has committed. Handing the matter over to an objective third
party should eliminate concerns about the motivation of Almond's
It also seems logical that citizens should hear the specifics
before issuing judgment against either Almond or those who accuse
Let's hope this ugly matter is resolved quickly.
The longer the haze covers this situation, the darker things
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.