|OPINION PAGE - DECEMBER 1, 1999 - JEFFERSON, GA|
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The Jackson Herald
December 1, 1999
that mobile home parks will hinder progress
By Mike Buffington
December 1, 1999
Dynamics of county growth
Lawsuits against the county government over zoning disputes have become as common as dirt. Two more were filed last week and no doubt others will come in the future.
At issue is how far governments should go in regulating land use by private property owners. On the one hand, there is a compelling need for there to be some order in how raw land is developed. That's especially critical in a county like Jackson that is facing outside growth pressures.
On the other hand, private property owners do have some inherent legal right to develop their property as they see fit. Too much intrusion by government in that process begins to trample on those rights.
There are scores of books on this subject. Although new to Jackson County, growth and land use conflicts are old news in many places.
But although many want easy answers, simple solutions do not exist. The dynamics of growth evolve and change and it's impossible to have a plan today that will work forevermore.
As we prepare to enter the new century, there are a number of forces that are converging on Jackson County which will determine how the county will grow in the coming decades. Those forces may generate even more lawsuits if county leaders fail to understand the dynamics of change.
1. Topping the list of forces on Jackson County will be the start of the Bear Creek Reservoir. Not only does that project make additional water available in Jackson County, it also generates a tremendous pressure on county leaders to sell that water for debt service payments. Water sales require customers and the county needs lot of paying customers fast. The upside is that the situation may create an atmosphere for greater cooperation between the county government and its towns since the allocation of water resources is important to everyone. The downside is a pressure to lure high-volume industrial water users to generate income. That's a short-term solution, but could be a long-term problem.
2. Second on the list of forces hitting Jackson County is the move by the county government to get into the sewerage treatment business. While a necessary move, the long-term effect of sewer is profound. Although current county leaders have vowed to put sewer services only for industrial and high-volume residential projects, future leaders may decide to make that service available more broadly. But when a sewer line goes into the ground, it forever changes the value and direction of the property nearby. Management of sewer services will be a key to how Jackson County grows in the coming years.
3. The third force hitting Jackson County is the change of its county government in 2001. In the long-run, the change will undoubtedly be for the good. But in the short-run, the transition could be difficult. If the new board gets distracted by the transition, the other major issues facing the county could get put on hold. It will be critical in 2001 that the new board not get lost on an internal focus, but rather keep an external view.
4. The fourth force hitting the county will be the continuing need for additional classroom space in local schools. As more people move to Jackson County, the pressure for schools will grow. That is an obvious conclusion, but what's not so obvious is the effect such building projects have on school system leaders, both hired and elected. Building projects take a huge amount of leader time and thought, much of which distracts from the academic focus of those leaders. It's a tough balance, but somehow these infrastructure projects have to be put in balance with all the other day-to-day matters.
5. The fifth force hitting the county in the coming years will be with major changes in the local road systems. All local major roads are in the middle of changes, or will soon be. As new roads open, new land is opened for development. That could have a profound effect on growth in Jackson County, especially in terms of where major commercial centers will be located. New roads also redefine the limits of a community, both physically and psychologically.
All of these forces are very important to how Jackson County will grow in the future. But the most important force may be the one that currently doesn't exist - that is, a common vision by local leaders that ties together all of these issues in some manageable way. With nine towns, three school systems and a large county geographically, it may prove impossible to really have a true common vision.
But somehow, local leaders at all levels will have to come together more in efforts to respond to these forces of change. That is being done to some extent already, but it has a long ways to go to be effective.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
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