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Hooray for county government’s fierceness over erosion, clearcutting

In their past two meetings, our county’s planning commission has made it clear they mean business when it comes to seeing developers, graders, and even families seeking to build homes respect and protect the land.

In May, the five members held up a single home rezoning after neighbors complained their property had been greatly harmed by runoff, sediment, and erosion from those uphill and upstream. Not necessarily the proposed house site, they cited the growth in the Cove Road area in general. The family spokesman said previous county employees had shown little interest in stopping uncontrolled erosion.

The commission chair and at least one commission member went to see the damage firsthand before making a decision.

And when the commission did allow the single home to proceed, the recently hired planning director Charles Reese, said all parties could count on and be forewarned, there will be “extra eyes” on compliace.

As Reese, who comes with a lot of experience from other Georgia counties, pledged at that meeting, they can’t go back and redo the past, but moving forward their office will ensure properties are protected. 

Hear! Hear! We say. It’s about time.

The planning office has been through a series of different chiefs over the past decade and it does appear the job of enforcing best management practices (BMPs) has not been a high priority. The BMPs have been ignored with impunity in some cases.

Then at the June planning commission, a relatively modest four-lot subdivision met a caustic and thoroughly unreceptive commission response when it was revealed the property had already been clearcut. According to commission chair Clayton Preble, the project engineer’s claims it wasn’t a true clearcut (nor in violation of any codes) was “splitting hairs.” Or in the words of a neighboring property owner, “hogwash.” 

As our county grows, we need this kind of call-it-like-it-is attitude for land use and zoning decisions. It probably helps that at least one new planning commission member is a dedicated trout fisherman and likely pre-disposed to water concerns.

This new devotion to protecting our environment is encouraging and may flow down from the top, as our board of commissioners has shown they don’t want to see any private sewage expanded if it means high-density residential development could follow. Commissioner Josh Tatum ran on a platform, and continues to make clear, unchecked growth isn’t going to happen if he has a say.

With so many cliches about the government being in cahoots with big-money developers, it’s refreshing to see here we have people committed to streams flowing clearly and trees left standing.

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