Businesses may bypass Grady due to no zoning, Marlowe says
Grady County’s top economic development official says, without reservation, that zoning plays a factor when new companies look to locate or expand in a community.
Joint Development Authority Executive Director Brian Marlowe, responding to a question by County Commissioner Charles Renaud, told members of the board of commissioners Tuesday morning that companies want to locate and expand in communities where there is zoning.
“Most companies will decide not to locate in a community if no zoning is in place. Companies want their interests protected and the interests of the property owners around them,” Marlowe said.
According to the development authority chief, the lack of zoning “would eliminate a community” from consideration in a highly competitive situation.
Commissioner Elwyn Childs pointed out that Turner’s Fine Furniture and Turner’s Budget Furniture had decided to locate new retail operations in the Beachton community and Performance Food Group had moved from Thomas County to Grady County even though zoning does not exist in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Marlowe explained that PFG-Powell’s distribution center here is located in the city limits of Cairo, which is zoned, and acknowledged the fact that Turner’s was locating to south Grady County without zoning regulations.
“I’m not saying companies will not come, but in highly competitive situations, it could be a major consideration, and the lack of zoning here could eliminate us from consideration by larger companies,” Marlowe said, adding, “I would be concerned about any business enterprise that was looking at coming to a community for the specific reason that they do not have zoning.”
The topic of zoning came up Tuesday morning in regard to questions by Commissioner Charles Renaud, who asked Marlowe if zoning is an issue when it comes to economic development.
“With everything going on right now in Beachton, this is sure to be hot topic. We’ve got a lot of eyes on us right now and we could run into problems from unregulated and unmanaged growth,” the District 2 commissioner commented.
Renaud suggested the board invite representatives of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, formerly the Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center, to attend the board’s Nov. 17 meeting to discuss zoning and the process involved in implementing zoning.
Vice Chairman Al Ball, who presided in the absence of Chairman Bobby Burns, agreed with Renaud that it would be informative to hear from Regional Commission officials.
“By inviting them to attend the next meeting, we are not proposing zoning, but only to come and give us up-to-date information so that we can more intelligently make decisions regarding this issue,” Ball said.
Commissioner Childs said he did not object to Regional Commission officials coming to the next meeting, but asked County Attorney Kevin S. Cauley if a referendum could be held to allow the public to vote on the issue.
“The process would pretty much be up to you, but I’m pretty sure any referendum would not be binding,” Cauley said. The county attorney said he would research the law and be prepared to discuss the process at the Nov. 17 meeting.
Commissioners voiced concern that the public would misunderstand the invitation to Regional Commission officials and repeated that a vote on zoning would not be taken at the Nov. 17 meeting.
County Administrator Rusty Moye said even if the commission voted to implement zoning, it would be a process that could take as long as two years. Moye says public hearings and meetings, as well as extensive mapping, would be required before a zoning ordinance could be adopted.
“By meeting with the Regional Commission we are not committing ourselves to anything. It would just be informative to know where zoning stands in the state in counties around us. It would help to have some information on zoning before us as we consider the matter,” Renaud said.