Madison County Opinion...

May 01, 2002


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
May 01, 2002

Frankly Speaking

Remember your obligation to keep county clean
Have you finished your spring cleaning yet? Many parts of Madison County need to be cleaned up. I receive numerous calls from people who are disturbed by the appearance of our county, from trash littering the roads, garbage dumped in creeks and neighbors who litter their own yards.
There is one simple solution to street litter. You and your neighbors can form a group and Adopt-A-Highway through the Madison County Clean and Beautiful committee. Your obligation is to clean trash from your adopted mile at least four times each year.
Various civic, religious and community organizations make this a part of their annual work program. In some cases, a family, or even one individual will adopt a mile of road. Over the past several years, thousands of pounds of trash have been removed from our roads making Madison County a more attractive place.
Dumping of trash or garbage anywhere in Madison County is illegal. Throwing old tires or appliances into the woods or a creek in rural areas can result in arrests, trial and punishment. If you know of an illegal dump, call the Madison County Marshal or Sheriff’s office with the location. If you have information that can reveal the identity of the dumper, turn that in as well. These people are trying to avoid the cost of disposing their trash, but we the taxpayers have to foot the bill of clean up.
People who trash their own yards are another problem. What is trash to us may be a valuable keepsake to them. They may be storing material they plan to use for construction projects, or old cars they are saving for parts. Or they may have health problems that prevent them from maintaining their property. Or they may not care how bad their property looks.
If the trash on someone’s property is so bad that it creates a health problem, then the Madison County Health Department can step in. For example, open containers that trap rainwater are ideal breeding ground for disease carrying mosquitoes. Larger items may be attractive but dangerous play areas for neighborhood children. More than one child has died by becoming trapped in abandoned refrigerators.
If the neighbors trash is simply a nuisance, the neighbors will have to find a way to work together to help or convince the offender to clean up. Form a community improvement committee and invite the offender to join. Ask kindly if they need assistance from the community and make it clear that help is available if needed. And if all else fails, neighbors can build a fence or hedge on their own property to block the view of the offender’s yard as much as possible.
None of us deserve to live in trashy communities. It is up to each of us to keep our own property clean and safe, and to expect the same from our neighbors.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
May 01, 2002

From The Editor's Desk

The real battle over Southern identity
There’s a lot of talk these days about Southern heritage.
But flag furor seems misdirected.
The real dilemma regarding Southern identity these days centers on land, not cloth.
We tend to think of land in ownership terms — “his land,” “her land,” “my daddy’s land.” Thus, we rarely escape a “micro” level approach to land use. Many pay real attention only when a feed mill is going to stink up the air they breathe as they sit on their porch. Understandable, of course. Zoning matters often get muddled in the minutiae of technicalities, lulling even those involved into a sleepy numbness.
But it’s important to recognize that land use on a “macro” level determines our connection with a place. Most adults recognize the way a place looked in their childhood and how things about that area have changed. A closer look at these reflections reveals that it’s the effect of development on the land that really changes the aura of a land for the better or worse.
We recognize that areas have an overall feel. Athens feels this way. Madison County feels that way. There are many parts of Madison County that you can look at fondly, thinking that those who lived on the land 200 years ago probably had a similar view. The same can’t be said of most of the metro-Atlanta area that continues to swell.
The “God awful Gwinnett” analogy has become so worn in certain communities it rings flat like a bad cliché. But the disdain for Gwinnett-like sprawl is telling. Many recognize that chaotic commercialization has stripped the area of its flavor. The effect is like a painter who forgets the usefulness of white space or a musician who fills every bar with numerous notes. Sure it’s flashy, but it feels wrong.
Because it’s a temporary shine. Look at a shopping center and consider what its lifespan is and what the area will look like when its economic viability runs its course, just as so many downtown areas have in the U.S. It’s a scary thought.
At the same time, it’s never wise to clamp down on all change out of fear. Madison County will change. It must. Local leaders harp on one point over and over, that the county must have commercial growth as people continue to move here. That’s absolutely right. You can’t levy reasonable property taxes and keep up roads, recreation, schools, etc. without more businesses bearing some of the costs.
But the development of the land must never come at the expense of a big picture. There must be some overall direction to help ensure that a place will keep good aura about it, that trees and old landmarks don’t always fall a distant second to concrete and Quicky Marts. That’s why the county has a comprehensive land use plan.
And that’s why efforts to restore old downtown structures or county landmarks are so important. Such old areas provide a firm center — a character backbone — for a changing land.
County leaders must also continue looking ahead, mulling proactive proposals like conservation subdivisions, which allow for tighter clustering of homes so that more green space is preserved. Leaders should debate mandating this plan not just in the Broad River corridor but in high growth areas of the county like Hull, where smaller lots won’t necessarily run off potential homebuyers. The long-term benefit could be the maintenance of rural integrity for that area.
While arguments over Southern history will linger on for years to come, let’s not lose sight of the larger issues of present and future.
Face it. It ain’t a flag that threatens Southern character and charm.
It’s sprawl.
And people will need to look beyond their own backyard to win this battle.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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