Banks County Opinions...

SEPTEMBER 22, 2004


Column

By: April Reese The Banks County News
September 22, 2004

On developing the countryside
The Banks County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning application last week that rezoned over a hundred acres for a residential subdivision. It is not the first time land in Banks County was rezoned for a subdivision, actually, it seems like the BOC approves a new request every month for more development.
They approved the request without any discussion on the board. Kenneth Brady, Pat Westmoreland and Rickey Cain heard from several surrounding property owners pleading that they deny request and leave the land agricultural. Don’t we elect officials so they will stand up for what the current residents want? Isn’t that democracy - the voice of the people? I always thought so.
The same night, a rezoning application was approved for an equestrian center on over a hundred acres in the county. It sounds like the county needs to decide if it wants to be agricultural or residential, it can’t be both.
Maybe the BOC just doesn’t want to turn anybody down, fearing legal repercussions. Their fears are unfounded. There are no constitutional rights that permit subdivisions in agricultural districts.
The same thing happens in Jackson County, but at a much more rapid rate. It seems like the commissioners in Jackson County want to become the next Gwinnett County. They can live here and drive to Gwinnett for work. Pay minimal property taxes here, and give the majority to another county for another civic center or mall or movie theater.
The truth is, we don’t want you here.
We don’t want you driving on our roads, polluting our air, causing accidents and costing the county tax payers more money in road maintenance. We don’t want you using our police department, increasing our crime, delaying response time and costing the county tax payers more money for deputies. We don’t want your kids going to our schools, causing overcrowding in our classrooms and costing the county tax payers more money for education.
People are confused. A subdivision creates a higher tax base on a piece of property per acre because of a house, but think about the tax burden. It costs $1,985 to educate one student for one year in the county school system, at the current mileage rate it takes a piece of property valued at $405,102 to pay for one student for one year. And that doesn’t include any of the other burdens like roads, police, fire protection, 911 service, etc.
Cows don’t go school and chickens don’t drive cars.
Agricultural land is taxed less because the assessed value is less and it should be because there is no tax burden on the county. The only reason to ever bring up taxes as an incentive for development is if that development is industrial, and even then it should be located in an area densely developed for industrial purposes, like Banks Crossing and the industrial complex in Braselton around the Mayfield dairy - wait a minute that’s agricultural.
Once zoning is changed for a piece of property surrounding property values, agricultural or not, increase therefore increasing taxes. Once zoning is changed for a piece of property it opens the doors for surrounding properties to be rezoned as well and eliminates the possibility for a property to be rezoned Commercial Agricultural District. Having property zoned CAD is one way to protect yourself from your neighbors. CAD zoning is only applicable for lots larger than 25 acres and the zoning was designed to protect farmers from encroaching development and nuisance lawsuits. It doesn’t mean that the property is commercial and is really the opposite. Once property is zoned CAD it becomes more difficult for surrounding property to be zoned for residential uses. I urge you to rezone your property to CAD for protection. Don’t worry, the BOC won’t turn you down, they don’t turn anyone down.
I understand why people don’t want to live in Atlanta. Who would? But, what about the generations of people who have made this county their home. I moved to Jackson County in 1991 to be with my grandparents after my parents divorce. We came from Cherokee County, which wasn’t developed at all then. Very quickly I decided this was the best place on earth. The people, the scenery, the way of life. All of that is changing now. I used to know most everybody around here. We didn’t need expansions of our roadways, we didn’t have to build new schools every year and truck in mobile homes for classrooms.
Last night, I was sitting my porch listening to the sounds cows make at night, hearing them communicating with each other. There is a large cattle farm across the river from my house, I can’t see it through the trees, but the grumbling noises I hear through the night give me comfort. See, I’m not worried about a development in my backyard, not yet.
When it came time to move out on my own, get married and start a family we knew we wanted to live in Jackson County. My husband and his family have been in the county for at least 200 years. But now, when the tax bill comes every year, we can hardly afford to pay for it. Don’t people realize when they rezone land and allow the development of major subdivisions people from outside come in and it raises taxes for the rest of us - the pioneers of our community.
They want to allow a 1,400 home subdivision in Nicholson. I don’t think it fits with the comprehensive plan for the county. And I really don’t think I want to pay for their kids to go to school. Do you?

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Column

By: Shar Porier
The Banks County News
September 22, 2004

Quality of life…
Now, let me get this right.
According to Ed Lindorme, a member of our planning commission, a person’s “quality of life is directly related to lot size” and that “someone with 100 acres enjoys life more than someone with a one-acre lot.”
Hmmmmm…
So that means I do not enjoy life or have quality of life since I only have 11.5 acres.
Mr. Lindorme’s comment would include the pastors that preside over our churches, the teachers who educate our children, the firefighters who protect our homes, the medics who save our lives and the deputies who keep us safe. They are all missing out on “the good life” because they don’t own 100 acres?
Our families living in the towns of Homer, Maysville, Lula, Baldwin, Alto, Gillsville, some in splendid old homes on small lots, others in their simple homes on their simple lots, lack quality of life?
That means that someone living in one of the condominiums at Hammer’s Glen Golf and Country Club does not enjoy life or have quality of life because they live in a beautiful 1,800 square-foot town home on a gorgeous golf course. And just think of the “poor” homeowners who are building their $300,000 homes there. Yes, there’s an example of people who just do not enjoy life or have quality of life.
And I guess that would mean the folks who have plunked down a measly $60-grand plus for two-acre lots at the new up-scale development at Apple Pie Ridge are suffering as well.
The list could go on and on and on…all these Banks County folks just missing out on everything life has to offer, by his standards, because they don’t have a deed to 100 acres.
From my perspective, I don’t think my critter family and me could be any happier than we are in our beautiful, little valley. It took all the money saved over the course of 30 years to buy and build on it. It was a dream fulfilled and I feel blessed every day when I walk outside and see the tree covered hills and the hawks flying high above.
In all honesty, I don’t want to keep up with 100 acres. It’s hard enough with what I have.
I’m sure there are many people who are quite content to have less, rather than more.
But, then if I had 100 acres maybe I could afford to pay someone to keep up the place.
Or maybe not.
When I read Mr. Lindorme’s comment, it brought back an old memory, an unhappy memory.
The day I saw firsthand how taxes placed a financial burden on our older Banks Countians who own large tracts of land.
Some years back, we had a big tax increase. I was at the courthouse ready to fuss about my taxes tripling. I took a seat next to an older gentleman, in his 70s, who was waiting for his scheduled hearing. He was there to appeal his $3,800 tax bill. He wept there in the courthouse, white-hired head in his gnarled hands because he didn’t know how he was going to pay it. His farm had been in the family for a long time. He wasn’t able to farm it anymore because of ill-health. All he had was his Social Security to provide for him and his wife. He worried his only way out was to sell his heritage.
My heart went out to him. It was hard for me to hold back my tears and swallow that lump in my throat. My appointment was before his, but instead of fussing about my bill, I pitched a fit for him. Not that it did any good, mind you, but I had to stand up for him and all the others like him.
So how was having 100-plus acres of land benefiting his quality and enjoyment of life? Looked more like torture to me.
It makes me wonder not just what he was implying, but why someone representing the county would make such a insensitive statement?
Mr. Lindorme’s comment reeks of avarice, of complete disrespect for all the citizens of Banks County.
I’m stunned, truly stunned, by the blatant materialistic viewpoint Mr. Lindorme so shamelessly expounded during a public meeting as a public official.
I don’t know, maybe one sees life differently from behind the wheel of a Mercedes.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.


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