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
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
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
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.