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Lots of questions, no answers…yet

Citizens who have attended the four public hearings on the proposed Grady County zoning ordinance have asked a lot of questions, but according to at least two Grady County commissioners they have left without many answers.
District 5 Grady County Commissioner T.D. David voiced his concerns that citizens attending the public hearings are leaving the hearings with no more information or understanding about the ordinance than when they came.
“Based on experience gained from the four meetings thus far, I believe the board is falling short of providing answers to questions asked by the people. Most of the opposition to the ordinance has been directed at usurping individual rights by forcing more and more unnecessary restrictions on the conduct of our daily lives. Some of the attendees have asked specific questions to which, I think we owe specific answers,” Commissioner David said.
The Dist. 5 commissioner then read a list of 19 questions that have been asked during the first four hearings.
David said the board should come together or solicit those qualified to develop answers to the questions and to provide the public with the answers. He would also like to see or hear from the members of the Grady County Planning Commission, who revised the draft from the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission to customize the ordinance for Grady County, at the public hearings. County officials say that none of the planning commission members have attended any of the first four meetings.
Grady County Administrator Rusty Moye said that the series of public meetings were never intended to be anything other than “listening sessions” to allow residents to comment on zoning and ask questions.
Moye says the purpose is not to “turn around and give answers right back to them.”
The county administrator said that county personnel are recording all of the questions and if the board wishes at the conclusion of the public hearings to pursue the matter further, then the board will meet with Regional Commission officials to seek answers to questions and to make revisions to the ordinance based on citizens’ concerns and the board’s better understanding of the document.
“We are not telling them that and we should. I believe that is the missing link,” Commissioner Al Ball replied.
David agreed and stated, “If that is what we’re going to do let’s say it. People are leaving with the same information they came to it with in many cases—none.”
Commissioners David and Ball say that despite those residents who are attending that are adamantly opposed to the ordinance, there are others who are seeking more information about the proposed ordinance.
David said it would “calm the waters” some to let the public know the plan is to listen to the questions, come together later to formulate answers and to revise the ordinance if necessary and then put the revised document back out to the public.
“Or we can just drop it if that is what the board decides. This is an important issue. We must live, probably for years, with our decision for or against. Just let us be very thorough in our deliberations,” Commissioner David said.
He added, “Whether we turn it down or not let’s do so with facts not innuendoes.”
Commissioner Charles Norton urged all commissioners to be “open minded” and to “listen” to the people.
During the discussion a question was asked of Grady County Attorney Kevin Cauley and he offered his insight into the debate.
“The only question to be answered is are we going to regulate land use by planning it out on a map or by identifying particular uses as we do now with the specific land use regulations. That is the only difference between the specific land use regulations and zoning. With the specific land use we have identified particular nuisances and we require certain setbacks from the nearest residence or a church. With zoning instead of particular uses you will design a map where things can occur,” Cauley said.
He pointed out that a nuisance in a residential area may not be a nuisance in an area zoned industrial.
“What we have now is a zoning ordinance without a map. At the end of the day, with zoning you have a map regulating where specific uses are permitted,” the county attorney said.
Commissioner Ball said that facilitators from the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission were attempting to explain that to those attending the public hearings, but “people are not hearing that. There is a lot of anger.”
Commissioner Norton then brought up the map included in the comprehensive plan that was adopted in the 1990s. Cauley reminded him that any ordinance approved today would “trump” the map adopted previously.
During the public participation section of the agenda, Tony Ward, a Beachton resident who supports the proposed ordinance, encouraged the commission to take its time in making a decision on zoning.
At the end of the discussion Tuesday night, Commissioner David said, “Let’s do like Tony (Ward) said and take our time and not be rushed to make a decision. There is no time factor here is there?”
Administrator Moye said there is no established schedule after the original nine public hearings that Ball and David pushed to expand to include a meeting or meetings for residents of Districts 4 and 5.

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