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OPINION PAGE - SEPTEMBER 29, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GEORGIA

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Column
Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald - September 29, 1999

Poultry odors lead to stinky zoning decision
If there's an issue hotter than zoning in Jackson County, I don't want to see it. Every month it seems some controversy revolves around zoning, especially with those opposed to rezoning requests coming before the county government.
I suppose that's a natural course of events in a county that is growing. The clash of old and new is never easy, especially when everyone thinks they're right. All too often, there appears to be no ground for compromise.
But there are some troubling aspects of that. Every rezoning doesn't have a simple right or wrong answer. And sometimes, as happened last week, rezonings bring to the fore issues that many would rather leave buried.
A specific example of that was a rezoning request made last Thursday for a 19-home development on Doster Road in West Jackson. The rezoning was denied because neighboring poultry farm owners said the residential development would create conflict due to the odor from their chicken houses. In short, they didn't want new neighbors complaining about the smell.
Perhaps it's just me, but that seems like odd reasoning for turning down a rezoning request. According to the county analysis of the proposal, the rezoning request conforms to the county land use plan and is in an area with similar residential projects. There is no indication that the proposed residential project has not followed all the rules for the rezoning.
But the request was turned down anyway, not on the merits of the proposed project, but rather because a nearby landowner has poultry houses that emit a stench and he doesn't want new neighbors to complain about it.
The logic of that escapes me. If I do something on my property that is offensive to other property owners, shouldn't they be the ones complaining?
This is a classic example of how growth can create conflict in a county that has been mostly rural. Existing landowners, especially those with agricultural operations, believe that because they were on site first, their rights supersede those of new property owners. It was that thinking that led to the creation of the PCFD zoning in the county for agricultural operations as a way to protect existing farm operations from lawsuits brought by growth.
But as many poultry farmers will tell you, it's only a matter of time until growth pressures force changes. If an industry were to emit the kind of stench found in some large poultry operations, there'd be all manner of heck raised by neighbors. We wouldn't stand for an industrial plant to ruin our backyard barbecue with a foul smell - we'd be in court demanding that the stench somehow be confined to the industry's own property.
But traditionally, we've not held farm operations up to that same standard. Rather, we've created exemptions and exceptions for agricultural operations so that they wouldn't have to meet such environmental standards. Counties have done that for a number of reasons, but mostly because agriculture has been a traditional part of the community fabric for decades. In Jackson County, for example, poultry operations amount to over $167 million per year in income and account for 94 percent of all local agricultural income.
But the days of making exceptions for farm operations appear to be numbered. As more people move into rural counties like Jackson, they will want to sit on their backyard decks without being chased inside from the smell coming from nearby poultry houses, or from fields laden with chicken manure.
But the legal challenges won't just come from individual homeowners. They will also come from developers who see their projects denied not because of what they plan to do, but rather because of what an existing landowner is already doing.
Ultimately, the county is in an indefensible position. No government can deny a property owner the full use and value of his land unless there's a compelling reason to do so. The fact that a farm emits a foul odor is not a compelling reason to deny a neighboring landowner the right to develop his property.
If anything, it is a compelling reason to ask why homeowners are expected to tolerate foul odors, no matter
what the source.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.



Letter
The Jackson Herald
September 29, 1999

Thanks for band support
Dear Editor:
I would like to thank all those in attendance at Panther Stadium last Friday night for our game with Newton County High School. The crowd was a wonderful audience for both bands' performances during halftime.
As I thought back over the last 17 years of my affiliation with Jackson County schools, I remembered several away games where the audience had been rude, disrespectful, or even oblivious to the fact that there was a band performing on the field. There were several times in the early years of the program that our 25-member band was laughed at during halftime.
However, our home crowd of JCCHS football fans, band parents, cheerleaders, students, faculty, and community members is to be commended for its conduct during halftime performances. Both our band and the visiting bands are always treated with respect, courtesy and attention. Thank you for realizing that band members work hard each week to present their performances at football games and are proud to contribute their part of the Friday night experience along with the football players and cheerleaders. The members of the JCCHS Marching Band and all the visiting bands deeply appreciate your courtesy.
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Miles Adams
Band director
Jackson County
Comprehensive High School


Editorials
The Jackson Herald
September 29, 1999

Northern arc needed
Growth in Jackson County has happened in large part because of roads. Without I-85, for example, there would be little incentive for businesses to move here.
But while Jackson County had the interstate long before it saw growth, there are areas of metro Atlanta that have seen residential growth without adequate roads. One of the key connections lacking is an east-west connection beyond I-285 to connect traffic between I-85 and I-75. That area of northern Gwinnett County, Forsyth County and Cherokee County has seen tremendous residential growth, but roads have not kept up with the demand.
Now comes the new Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the agency created by Gov. Roy Barnes, saying that such an east-west northern arc is less important than HOV lanes.
But as anyone who sits in Atlanta's traffic knows, HOV lanes are not the solution to the metro area's air pollution and traffic woes. Although designed to encourage car-pooling, HOV lanes cannot do that in a city that lacks adequate internal transportation systems.
Even if HOV lanes are done, that still would not solve the need for an east-west connection from Northeast Georgia to Northwest Georgia.
While these metro Atlanta decisions don't directly involve Jackson County, they could have a tremendous impact on our future. How Jackson County grows will, in part, depend on the outcome of the political struggles of GRTA and other metro agencies.
Let's hope those groups will begin to use some common sense in their decision-making rather than the same old ideas popular with environmentalists.
HOV lanes sound good, but they won't work. The northern arc is needed is and would help the traffic problems around metro Atlanta.



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