Growth was a big red pulsing signal in the air Friday evening and Saturday morning when the Commerce City Council talked about priorities for the city.
Mayor Clark Hill made the comment that Commerce has done – and should continue to do – a good job maintaining commercial and industrial “corridors” separate from residential areas. He noted that West Jackson around Braselton and Hoschton has not and it has spawned opposition to development.
Commerce spent the majority of its meeting talking about how to deal with what the council members see as a tidal wave of growth coming to the area.
The council members could be correct. Commerce has land available for all kinds of development and its public officials are welcoming (although not for some housing developers, council members plainly said). That welcoming is different from the rest of the county where opposition to nearly any type of development has become common.
The attitude toward development is striking to hear in Commerce. We don’t hear it in Jackson County and often not in Banks or Barrow counties.
Commerce council members, led by Hill, were adamant that property along Hwy. 441 be reserved mostly for commercial developments. Similarly, land along Hwy. 98 largely is viewed as future industrial development – one such rezoning of the Bouchard farm, adjacent to Interstate 85 and just off Hwy. 98 is on the agenda for next week’s Commerce council meeting.
One comment heard more than once during the meeting was the need for Commerce to talk with Jackson and Banks county officials and with the Jackson County Water & Sewerage Authority about partnerships for future needs.
It was noted Commerce is between Jackson and Banks counties, and both need additional sources of water and more sewer lines and capacities. Some sort of joint use of capacity and cost-sharing makes sense. Let’s hope the other counties see that wisdom clearly, also.
Commerce is beginning the active planning for expansions of its water and sewer capacity. It was noted that Jefferson has nearly completed the land acquisition for its second reservoir and it took about a decade. It is likely to be another decade before Jefferson has any water from a second reservoir.
Hill noted the chances are that any new sewer or water capacity for Commerce is likely to take a decade or more and different city officials may be in office when that is accomplished.
That is called planning. Public officials have more than once used the cliché of planting an acorn without ever expecting to see an oak tree from it. That is often the case with public utilities.
The work that was done Friday and Saturday is just the beginning, and council members recognized that. Years and years may pass before any results are seen.
Unfortunately, the growth may be here in five to 10 years.
The growth in West Jackson may be staring us in the face much sooner. Traffic already is a mess there for parts of the day. It feels way too much like Atlanta to those of us who are allergic to that already.
Commerce’s elected officials took an unusual step – they agreed that some studies need to be done about alternatives for utilities, and they agreed the cost of those studies probably will need to come out of the city’s reserves. Very few public officials would commit to such heresy in public. Public officials like to maintain reserves at all costs.
However, the needed studies are one-time expenses, not recurring. That is just why reserves are created.
Commerce officials talked about needs for the next 20 to 40 years. None of them are likely to be around for that, as Hill noted. But their counties, and the residents then, should have folks talking and planning for that now to be sure it is available when needed.
Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers. Send email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.