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 OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 1, 1999 - COMMERCE, GEORGIA



Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 1, 1999

Big Mobile Home Park Would Be A Huge Disaster
The issue of manufactured housing ­ mobile homes ­ is one that has been debated for years and will be debated forever in this and other counties. Governments shudder at the prospect of a large mobile home park being built in their jurisdiction.
There are good reasons for that fear. In Commerce, for example, the percentage of crime that occurs in the town's mobile home parks is far higher than the percentage of households those trailers represent. And, always a concern, mobile homes provide little to no tax revenue, whereas even the most humble site-built house appreciates in value.
To be truthful, if we were to compare statistics from other forms of housing where low-income people live, mobile homes might not stand out. Neighborhoods where the poor live, whether in the housing projects or in other substandard housing in some neighborhoods, are likely statistically similar to mobile home parks in terms of crime and the need for other public services.
When someone proposes a mobile home park, they are, in a sense, proposing a low-income neighborhood. Within that neighborhood will be mostly good and decent people, but also enough ruffians and no-goods to make life hell for the others and for the police.
There are many reasons people have low incomes. Some are physically or mentally unable to work. Some are quite content to earn a modest wage because they have modest ambitions. These people struggle by the best they can with quiet dignity. Others, however, have low incomes because they've consistently made bad decisions in life, from dropping out of school to abusing alcohol or drugs or because they have no work ethic. The latter group is proportionately more likely to foster in its children disrespect for authority, apathy about school and education and a gift for running afoul of the law.
So, when a developer proposes building a mobile home park that could house from 500 to 900 trailers, it should be no surprise that public officials react with horror. In the Commerce case, the developer would own the property and rent out spaces, creating a neighborhood with no vested interest in the community.
If 500 mobile homes had an average of 2.7 people each, which was the Commerce average per house in the 1990 census, 500 mobile homes would add 30 percent to the population of Commerce. It might well double the number of low-income housing units and it would create the largest low-income neighborhood in Northeast Georgia. The developer's attorney, asked about the average number of residents per unit, guessed at four. That would mean 2,000 new Commerce residents, representing a growth over 40 percent in the city's population.
Those kind of numbers would overwhelm any small town. The fact that virtually all of them would be low-income residents would devastate this community. Commerce can't afford a development that big, especially one that would cater to the segment of society that requires the most in public expenditures but pays the least in return.
It is not a matter of discriminating against people in mobile homes. It is a matter of the survival of Commerce as a nice place to live.



Editorial
The Commerce News
September 1, 1999

State Encroaching Upon 'Home Rule'
Wendell Dawson, savvy chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and of the Upper Oconee Basin Water Authority, sounded a warning last Wednesday morning that all local governments should heed. Dawson warned authority members not to count on the water resources in their counties, including in the Bear Creek Reservoir, as their own. He speculated that one day the state of Georgia might try to seize them to allocate them to Atlanta, which will have severe problems with water supply in the near future.
What Dawson sees is a growing erosion of home rule by state and regional state-created "authorities." It is a valid fear. Already, Gov. Roy Barnes has suggested that water and sewerage issues might best be made by regional authorities. Others have proposed that the state should make all land use decisions. House Bill 489, the "shared services" legislation, has forced local governments to get permission from neighboring governments on key decisions. The state has moved to "disqualify" local towns, and numerous counties, including Jackson, have been required to sell more expensive, less polluting gasoline to try help Atlanta reduce its ozone problem. The EPD is trying to force "regionalism" upon cities and counties; it frowns upon a single government trying to solve its water or sewer problems in favor of forcing multi-jurisdictional efforts.
Regional cooperation is certainly desirable, but it is not always practical. It is a matter of fact that the Upper Oconee Water Authority is the only regional water authority in the state. Others have tried, but getting four or more counties to work together has proven extremely difficult. It gets no easier when mandated by the state. The state's view that water arising in or passing through one county is the property of all residents has merit, but it also opens the door to the state using water needed in Jackson County to fuel Atlanta's growth.
It was that possibility that led the Upper Oconee Basin Authority to decline any state funding assistance in building the Bear Creek reservoir. The project is costly, but it belongs to the citizens of four local counties. Even that, though, may not keep state officials from trying to take water at some future point, through its stream withdrawal permits, to give to ever-growing Atlanta.
Dawson's call was for vigilance against any attempt by the state to eliminate home rule. Let every citizen and especially every elected official be alert to the possibility that the control of growth and development of any community may be appropriated by the state.






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