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Second official tells board that zoning is important to new industry

Grady County commissioners heard another perspective regarding zoning Tuesday morning from the head of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission (SWGARC).
Dan Bollinger, executive director of the SWGARC, discussed zoning with county commissioners and the process it would take to adopt a zoning ordinance.
“There are two sides to every issue and zoning is no different. On the pro side, with zoning you will be able to regulate and control conflicting uses of land and property within the county. It sounds harsh, but remember you are the ones doing the controlling. This board will have the final decision on each and every zoning issue,” Bollinger said.
The Regional Commission director noted that zoning is no different from county ordinances regulating speed limits and prohibiting littering.
“You can also maintain property values with zoning. There are conflicting uses that will absolutely lower and substantially lower property values. You have to consider that when you consider an ordinance,” Bollinger said.
He also emphasized the importance of enforcement once a zoning ordinance is adopted.
“If you adopt a zoning ordinance but do not properly enforce it, you have nothing. You’ve got people here that do a real good job with your building permits and I think they will do a good job with zoning. You’ve got to be fair and you’ve got to be transparent and consistent,” Bollinger said.
Bollinger also shared real-life southwest Georgia examples of zoning preventing conflicting uses that otherwise could not have been regulated.
Commissioner Charles Norton, the most vocal opponent to zoning on the county commission, pointed out that zoning ordinances in Thomas and Mitchell counties have not been sufficient to regulate the construction of chicken houses in those counties.
“They ended up adopting a chicken house ordinance like we’ve had on the books for 15-20 years,” Norton said.
County Administrator Rusty Moye pointed out that the ordinance Norton was referring to only regulates the setback of chicken houses from neighboring residences, but nothing more.
Vice Chairman Al Ball quizzed Bollinger on the legal process and the time frame it would take to adopt a zoning ordinance.
Bollinger estimated it would take a minimum of six months to put a “good” ordinance in place, and he advocated the Regional Commission as a working partner to assist the county in development of a zoning plan and ordinance.
He says the county should start with its existing comprehensive plan and then develop a future land use plan.
“The future land use plan and map are the most important. A lot of people look at the existing and forget about the future,” Bollinger said.
“The whole reason this issue has come back up is because of the question, does it deter businesses from coming in because we don’t have zoning?” Commissioner Norton asked.
Bollinger said that new businesses are no different than new homeowners, and everyone is concerned about their investment in a community. He noted that neither businesses nor homeowners want to invest in a new business or new home to have a conflicting land use right next door.
Norton maintains that the special land use ordinance already in place regulates conflicting uses. He also preached against additional government regulation.
“On my farm today there is nothing I can do without getting someone’s blessing before I do it. I can’t put up a fence, push up a fence row. I have to have a permit from the state to burn limbs, I have to have a permit to put in a well, dig a pond or install a septic tank. Government controls everything I do and all we are doing with zoning is implementing more government regulations,” Norton said.
Bollinger reminded Commissioner Norton there are two sides to every issue. He also recommended the commission involve as much public participation in the process as possible.
The Regional Commission chief admitted there are private firms that would work with the county to develop a zoning plan and ordinance, but that his staff could do it for half the cost and would be available for each and every public meeting on the project.
The commission took no action on the issue and did not schedule a date to discuss the matter further.

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