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County will seek public comment on proposed zoning plan

The Grady County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 Tuesday night to contract with the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission to prepare a draft zoning ordinance for the county.
District 3 Commissioner Charles Norton, a vocal opponent to zoning, cast the lone nay vote. Chairman Al Ball, Vice Chairman Charles Renaud and Commissioner Elwyn Childs voted to accept the memorandum of agreement with the Regional Commission.
“I don’t see how it could be a bad thing to make sure we get factual information about zoning in front of the public and allow them the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to this plan,” Vice Chairman Charles Renaud said.
He added, “It’s easy to scare someone with misinformation. If we get this process started and we hold these public meetings and it is shown that the majority of the people are not for it then I will be the first to vote not to do it. But if people think the plan is good, and that is what we are talking about is a plan for growth, then anyone should look at it and say that ‘s the way we should go.”
Renaud concluded by saying, “I see this as a way to make sure the public has good information and can make an informed decision whether or not zoning is good or not for Grady County.”
Chairman Al Ball interjected that a motion and second were necessary for discussion of the matter.
Commissioner Norton took that opportunity to make a motion to deny. His motion died for lack of a second.
Then the vice chairman made a motion to accept the Regional Commission’s terms and District 1 Commissioner Elwyn Childs seconded the motion.
“I’m like Charlie in a lot of ways,” Commissioner Childs said.
However, Childs acknowledged that in his conversations with people in the community there appears to be somewhat of a balance between those who favor zoning and those who oppose.
“If they have the opportunity to attend these meetings and see the maps and what is going on and they confirm that they don’t want or need zoning then that’s great. I don’t mind looking at it though,” Childs said.
Chairman Ball said, “If we can give closure to this issue I think we should do it.”
Norton then began to discuss all of the regulations that are currently in place in some form or another.
“There is not one thing I can do on my farm without getting a permit or permission from somebody to do it. I’m not up hear to pass more regulations and choke this economy,” Norton said.
Vice Chairman Renaud posed a hypothetical question to Norton about what his position would be if in fact the majority opinion of the residents in attendance at public meetings held in his district favored zoning: What would he do then?
Norton conceded if the majority of his constituents expressed support for zoning “that’s the way we will go.”
“I just don’t see the harm in putting factual information in front of the public so they can make an informed decision,” Renaud stated.
Commissioner Childs noted that the county already has special land use regulations on the books.
“We’ve got a pretty good system now,” Childs said.
Norton agreed and said that no other motocross tracks had opened here since the regulations were adopted.
However, Renaud pointed out that the tracks were already in operation when the regulations were passed.
The total cost proposed by the Regional Commission from start to finish including three months of guidance with administration and implementation of new regulations if adopted is $12,000.
Commissioners discussed Tuesday night if by accepting the agreement were they committed to spending the entire $12,000.
County Administrator Rusty Moye told board members the RC had broken down the costs and assured them they would be able to stop work on the project at any time and would only owe for the work that had been done and nothing for the work left undone.
The RC is also proposing to charge $250 additional for each public information meeting hosted by the county. Commissioners in previous discussions have stated their plan to hold public sessions in other parts of the county and not restrict them to the courthouse.
District 5 Commissioner Bobby Burns was absent Tuesday night, but at the last commission meeting he stated that the decision should be made by the commissioners whose districts were outside the corporate limits of Cairo. Burns’ district is a city district and would not be as greatly impacted as districts in the unincorporated areas of the county.

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