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Ward pushes zoning plan to JDA

Beachton resident Tony Ward attended the monthly meeting of the Grady County Joint Development Authority Tuesday to renew his call for the JDA, chamber and Grady County Commission to develop a long-range plan for the county to include zoning.
Ward made a similar plea recently to the board of commissioners, but commissioners did not respond to his request.
“It is high time the Grady County Commission, the JDA and the chamber of commerce, in conjunction with the citizens, come up with a plan for future development and put it into place as soon as possible,” Ward told members of the authority.
Although Ward is concerned with development in the Beachton community, he says the entire county will be impacted by future development just as it has been by the development of the motocross industry here.
He says the Beachton area is ideal for commercial development and predicts it could become the next Bradfordville, in reference to the Florida community north of Tallahassee that has blossomed with development.
“We are not against development, but we need some type of protection so that the folks who have lived there all these years are not forced out. Without zoning, they can push you out and you won’t have much choice but to sell and get out,” Ward said.
The Beachton man says new industry would also prefer zoning.
“Industry likes to know what confronts them. Before they locate somewhere, they want to know what the rules are and what is expected,” Ward said.
According to Ward, “a lot of money is being spent unnecessarily because Grady County is wide open for development.”
Without a long-range plan, Ward is also concerned that future development will lead to environmental issues because of septic tanks and water pollution.
JDA member Chuck Thomas reminded Ward that both the authority and the chamber have gone on record in support of zoning. “I have personally challenged the county commissioner who is most against zoning and asked him to allow the citizens to vote on zoning, but I haven’t made much headway there. If people think zoning is so bad, why don’t we abolish it in the city of Cairo? If everyone did everything right, you wouldn’t need zoning or any other laws and regulations, but people don’t always do what is right.”
Thomas also remarked that the authority only works with new employers that will benefit the community and not wreck neighborhoods.
“We’re the best thing you’ve got going. I’m not going to vote, and I don’t think anyone else on the board would vote to give assistance to a new industry that will wreck a neighborhood. I think Turner Furniture will be a great neighbor for you in Beachton,” Thomas said.
As far as motocross, Thomas said the track operators came to Grady County because of the lack of zoning and not because of a love for this area. “Some of the county commissioners want to jump on them now. They came here because we don’t have zoning and they are here now. There is nothing we can do about it, but we can learn from that and come up with some plan for limited zoning.”
Ward asked if the JDA could stimulate the county commission and, working together, call a public hearing to put the matter on the table for discussion.
“Things are changing here. This county is sitting between Thomasville, Bainbridge and Tallahassee and there are only select areas for commercial development. It’s coming,” Ward predicted.
JDA Chairman Charles M. Stafford advised Ward to meet with the county commission. “If the county asks us to assist, we would be happy to do that,” Stafford said.
Thomas added, “Not all of the commissioners are against zoning. We need to continue to work together. The solution is to encourage them to let the people vote.”

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