The Commerce News
December 8, 2004
New Project Will Set A Precedent
It is expected that the Commerce City Council
will approve rezoning of 276 acres in the triangle where old
U.S. 441 and the 441 bypass meet. The property, proposed as a
“mixed-use” development containing commercial property
and 500 residences, was to have been rezoned to C-2, then parts
would be re-zoned for residential use once the details were worked
The rezoning has been postponed a month, but there will be both
commercial and residential tracts.
The developer wants 253 lots a hair bigger than a quarter acre
for single-family houses and to build 250 units of townhouses.
To this point, the city has opposed houses on such small lots
and townhouses in general. For example, it rejected a proposal
for the White Hill School Road just recently that would have
put 114 houses on small lots in order to preserve open space,
opting to allow the developer standard R-1 lots of 32,500 square
feet three-quarter-acre lots.
The Commerce Planning Commission has been vigilant too
much so, some say about rejecting developments of “starter
houses,” and what it considers high-density housing over
concerns of how the development will look after it is occupied
and what its effect will be on the school system.
Now comes a proposal by one of the Atlanta area’s top developers
with something Commerce needs and its officials covet
a significant commercial development. To get that, however, the
city must accept the very types of housing it has heretofore
The houses proposed in David Chatham’s initial proposal
are priced starting at $149,000 and are on, by our standards,
tiny lots. Some of them have one-car garages. They would work
well if occupied by childless couples or retired people, but
what will the neighborhood look like with three to four cars
per house and the usual smattering of boats, campers, recreational
vehicles, trampolines and children’s playhouses that are
typical of today’s households?
The plan also calls for 250 townhouse units priced to suit the
people at the start or the end of their careers. Current zoning
allows a density of only four dwelling units per acre of apartments
or townhouses. This plan has a much higher level.
What officials struggle with is how to reduce the number of houses
and townhouses without scaring the developer off. Can they reduce
the number by half or a third?
Another concern is the commercial sector, which fronts on the
bypass from Georgia 326 south. City officials would like to see
restaurants, chain stores, boutiques and other stores, plus the
big-box anchor of a grocery store. They do not want development
comprising convenience stores, pawn shops, check-cashing businesses
and the like that make Buford Highway in Atlanta look sleazy.
How can they protect against that?
The good news is that Chatham doesn’t develop second-rate
projects, and in upcoming work sessions with the planning commission,
he may be able to allay those fears. But this is new ground for
the city and whatever it does here sets a precedent. We want
to make sure it is a good precedent.
The Commerce News
December 8, 2004
More Proactive At Last
Commerce officials are for obvious reason
mum about the details of plans to acquire land for an industrial
park, but the fact that the city council is even considering
the creation of an industrial park marks a change for the better.
For too long, Commerce waited for industrial prospects to fall
into its lap, then felt like a jilted bride when major prospects
chose developed land with utilities and roads in place elsewhere
instead of more expensive raw land and promises of infrastructure
That is changing. The city is becoming more proactive in promoting
economic development. It is working with the county government,
Industrial Development Authority and is warming its relationship
with the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. The city is
finally becoming an economic development player instead of a
This is important for the future of the city and the survival
of the city school system. Industry is property-tax heavy. Commercial
facilities also yield property taxes, but their main contribution
is in sales taxes. Both broaden the scope of job opportunities.
As the number of houses grows relentlessly, Commerce like
any city or county must have commiserate industrial and
commercial growth to remain healthy.
Developers are also starting to show more interest in and around
the city. Major potential industrial sites are being annexed
near the Maysville Road interchange at Interstate 85, for which
the city is extending water and sewer lines. Bana Road, the extension
of Steve Reynolds Industrial Boulevard (formerly Progress Road)
and the extension of Steven B. Tanger Boulevard are all promising.
Atlanta’s premiere development company plans a mixed-use
(commercial and residential) development on Homer Road.
Economic development requires patience and persistence. For Commerce
to prosper, for it to keep its independent school system, it
is crucial that the city make economic development a permanent
top priority. The city’s interest in developing an industrial
park is the latest sign that Commerce is doing just that.
Baseball’s Drug Problem
America’s favorite past-time needs
to get serious about its drug problem. Those who follow Major
League Baseball have been aware for years of allegations of illegal
drug use primarily a variety of steroids and the Human
Growth Hormone among marquee players such as Barry Bonds,
Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and others. The problem is by no
means limited to baseball, but only baseball is doing so very
little about it. It just developed a policy regarding steroids
in 2002, is only now implementing testing with penalties and
has yet to outlaw the use of Human Growth Hormone.
The drugs give players greater speed and strength, artificially
enhancing their abilities. They also allow players to threaten
or break some of baseball’s most cherished milestones.
The record-setting single-season home run performances of Mark
McGwire and Barry Bonds are now believed to be drug-enhanced.
Bonds, named most valuable player in the National League four
straight times, could surpass Henry Aaron’s career home
run mark of 755 this year because of performance-enhancing
Let’s call it for what it is cheating. When a sport
followed by millions of young people refuses to get serious about
cheating, it not only encourages more baseball players to cheat,
but it also sends the message to kids that such drug use is both
OK and necessary to succeed at a higher level.
With fines, suspensions, even asterisks in the record books,
MLB must respond. Drugs are tarnishing the great American past-time.
The Jackson Herald
December 8, 2004
Storm clouds gathering on ‘diversity’
Although college campuses make up only a small part of the nation’s
overall population, they are often at the edge of public discourse.
That has been true for decades and came into clear focus during
the riotous 1960s when college campuses became the focal point
of both racial integration and protest against the Vietnam War.
By the mid-1970s, most campuses had settled down. Integration
was a fact which had been accepted by a majority of citizens.
And as Vietnam waned, so did the protests.
But other campus issues were left to simmer. Now, a perfect storm
of college-based controversies may be forming that will once
again push the halls of academia onto the public stage.
Two recent studies show that most college campuses lean heavily
to the political left and that professors are overwhelmingly
That’s not shocking news to anyone who has been around
a college campus liberal ideology has long been the dominate
political force at most colleges.
It is, after all, on college campuses where political correctness
has run amuck with “speech codes,” sensitivity training
and other efforts to make students conform to the prevailing
But now, following the re-election of Republican George Bush,
conservatives are clamoring for more balance in campus political
Some charge that there is an anti-conservative bias on college
campuses that suppresses the rise of conservative teachers and
Others charge that conservative students, especially those who
write for campus publications, are routinely harassed by college
officials over their political views.
Over the last two years, these voices clamoring for more intellectual
diversity on college campuses have become stronger. Conservative
students are pushing back harder against campus speech codes
and other efforts many consider nothing more than political brainwashing.
And Republican political leaders, at both the state and federal
levels, are likely to wage war on what they believe are liberal
biases on many college campuses in administration and hiring.
The second front of this converging political storm comes from
the opposite end of the political spectrum. Some academic leaders
are making a push to create greater campus “diversity”
by having race again become a factor in student selection.
That debate has heated up here at The University of Georgia where
a proposal to reintroduce race as one criteria for student admission
is getting a lot of public and political flak. Race as a criteria
was tossed out a few years ago following a lawsuit by some white
That issue is complex. While many say that “merit”
should be the only criteria for university admission, building
a consensus on what is “merit” proves elusive.
Is “merit” a student’s SAT score? His high
school grade average?
And in athletics, “merit” often has less to do with
a student’s academic skills than it does his or her athletic
skills. Should we now also hold all student-athletes to the same
standard as non-student athletes?
Whatever course that debate over “merit” takes, the
move to again inject race as an admissions criteria comes at
a bad time.
For example, if one makes an argument for racial preference in
student selections, then how can he in turn oppose intellectual
diversity by promoting more conservatives to professorships?
Yet that is the ideological clash which is gathering in today’s
political storm clouds.
Liberal voices which clamor for more racial or ethnic diversity
on college campuses overwhelmingly oppose any efforts toward
creating intellectual or political diversity by accommodating
To many liberals, diversity is a one-way street; campus conservatives
should be muzzled and harassed with “speech codes”
and more sensitivity training, while accommodations and considerations
should be given to special groups based on ethnic, racial or
even sexual preferences.
But liberals can’t have it both ways.
And in today’s more conservative political culture, the
pursuit of an ethnic diversity agenda is going to clash headlong
into a counter-conservative agenda calling for more academic
The result could make for a stormy season on America’s
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
Decembeer 8, 2004
needs to be fully aired before approval
The proposed 2,400-home planned community on property to be annexed
into Arcade should be fully aired before it is allowed to proceed.
This project would be the largest in the history of Jackson County
and would have a tremendous impact far beyond the borders of
It would impact local schools.
It would impact traffic and transportation planning.
And it would impact a host of other infrastructure needs in the
county for decades to come.
In addition, the siting of this project could open the floodgates
for other similar high-density projects in the area. Thus, the
impact could ripple in ways that are unforeseen today.
This is a precedent we find deeply troubling for the future of
Jackson County. Although such large projects would have an impact
far beyond their borders, by annexing into a small town with
weak leaders, or complicit zoning practices, a developer can
bypass the county land use plan and zoning.
That puts the future of Jackson County into the hands of a few
small town city councils, many of which lack the background or
experience to deal with such large-scale projects.
But what really concerns us about this particular development
is that it is being done with a minimum of public input and government
Indeed, it appears that Arcade leaders have already agreed in
secret with the developers to annex the property out of county
low-density zoning and give the developers high-density zoning
within the city of Arcade.
Of course, there will be hearings on that, but those may be only
for show. A deal has apparently already been cut behind closed
In addition, the timing of this development’s approval
indicates that it is designed to win support before the current
county board of commissioners leaves office. One county commissioner
is believed to be a silent partner in the deal.
We don’t necessarily oppose planned community developments
in Jackson County.
But we do believe that any mega-development which will add 2,400
homes and 6,000 people, including 1,000 new students, deserves
to have some serious public discussion before it is approved.
Everyone involved in this deal should put all their cards on
the table. Public feedback should be solicited. A healthy airing
of all the issues should take place.
If the project is good for Jackson County, then show the public
why it will be good and how the negative aspects can be mitigated.
That such a large mega-deal is being done in virtual silence
and at warp speed concerns us, and it should also be of concern
to all Jackson County citizens.