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 OPINION PAGE - DECEMBER 1, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

Editorial
The Commerce News
December 1, 1999

Industrial Park Looks
Like Good Deal For City
It's a little early to tell, but the city of Commerce may be getting a wonderful Christmas present from a Gainesville developer.
Broughton Cochran of Cochran Properties has the recommendation of the Commerce Planning Commission to support his request to have approximately 125 acres between old U.S. 441 and the U.S. 441 bypass rezoned M-2 for an industrial park.
The city should be pleased on two fronts. First, city officials have for months been seeking a site for an industrial park that is inside the city limits. Cochran's property is. The development of the land could provide some much-needed industrial growth on the city's tax digest.
Second, the property was previously proposed for a mobile home park that might have contained 500 or more units. City Hall would have fought that development (the planning commission had recommended denial of the rezoning request, but the owner and his lawyer made veiled threats of taking the city to court). That fight, if the city grants Cochran's request, will not be necessary.
No doubt there will be some difficulties. For example, it is likely that the six-inch water lines in the area are insufficient to meet industrial needs. Rectifying that will require negotiations between the developer and the city. There will also need to be discussions about sewerage needs and an understanding between the developer and the city about what kinds of industries are welcome and which are not.
Hopefully, the city council and Cochran can work together to iron out any obstacles to the creation of an industrial park. If they can, Cochran wins, the city wins and its taxpayers win. The city needs a greater industrial tax base to help offset the cost to residential taxpayers of a growing school system and to provide more income in its utility funds. The community needs more good jobs and, like Commerce, Jackson County can use the industrial tax base.
We'll see what develops, but Broughton Cochran's proposal for an industrial park sure looks good.


Commerce: A Good Buy
Once again, the city of Commerce, from a property tax standpoint, is the least costly place to live in Jackson County.
At the risk of sounding like an adjunct of a city chamber of Commerce, we think that's just one of the good things, financially, about living in this city.
Commerce's tax rate averages a mill or more below most other tax districts in Jackson County. But in addition to having the lowest (ok, let's say the "least high") taxes, it has the least costly utility prices as well. Commerce's electric rates are the lowest in the county and in the area. Ditto its natural gas rates, and its water and sewage treatment rates are no higher than average.
Its city government has the best management in the county, so the city is able to not just maintain the status quo, but to make improvements. The downtown improvements, new sidewalks, cemetery improvements, more road resurfacing, a full-time recreation department, a huge civic center and a performing arts center are all part of the package residents get while paying less in property taxes and less in utility bills than any other place in the county. Our library is tops in the county, our animal control program is well-established, we have our own police and fire departments and maintain an independent school system. And Commerce has reserve funds to meet future needs.
No one likes to pay taxes or utility bills, but at least Commerce residents have the satisfaction of knowing their rates are lower than anyone else in the area. Citizens of Commerce get more for their money. Commerce is a good buy.

Column
Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
December 1, 1999

Glad To Skip
Annual Mall
Shopping Trip
Christmas shopping ain't what it used to be.
The Beardsley family, for the first time, skipped its annual day-after-Thanksgiving shopping trip to Clearwater (FL) Mall, an exercise designed not for the filling of Christmas lists, but to see if we're still up to the stress of the Christmas Crush.
I'm just not up to it any more.
It's heredity. My father was not one who suffered crowds and lines. At least not silently. Nor did he enjoy the challenge of beating 100 other motorists searching for the only vacant parking place in a 10,000-car mall parking lot.
My father also thought Thanksgiving was too early to begin decorating for Christmas. The very concept of "Christmas stores" that open year round would have caused him to light a Winston to calm his nerves.
My father's holiday sentiments were handed down along with the genes that control hay fever, I think. Thus, my annual Florida mall experience was undertaken out of a desire for family harmony, as opposed to one for shopping.
Driving in my home county any time of the year is an exercise in patience and defensive driving, but during the Christmas season it is almost madness. Most of the madness is perpetuated in the parking lot, where it is common for families to conduct their entire shopping experience without ever finding a parking space. One designated driver merely circles the parking areas until he (seldom) comes upon a vacant parking spot (they only occur when a car is stolen) or finds his family having completed their shopping.
Those are the lucky ones. The unlucky motorists are those who actually manage to find a parking place and are forced to accompany their family into the mall. It is incredibly difficult to get into the Christmas spirit Nov. 26, when it is 85 degrees and most of the shoppers are wearing shorts. Nonetheless, Santa can be found, dressed as though he were at the North Pole, probably some recently transplanted Buffalo resident who is already starting to see the ice and snow of his former residence as less troublesome than the line of children he entertains on the next shift.
The first thing I want upon entering the mall is a cup of coffee. I'd join the line of other middle-aged drivers still shaking from the parking experience, and after 45 minutes exchange $2 for a cup of something that may have once been coffee but which has evolved into toxic waste.
The coffee would be the highlight of the day.
To the background music of "The Chipmunks' Greatest Christmas Hits," we separately walked the length and breadth of the mall, the women actually shopping and the men trying to figure out how to accomplish our own gift buying by mail, over the Internet or at a convenience store. Navigating the halls is like participating in a human demolition derby, trying to avoid being run over, or running over someone, trying to survive until the checkered flag goes up.
But the hour finally came when we were allowed to leave, the women happy with their purchases, we men thankful that there were only 29 shopping days left.
I can't say I missed it.


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