Stephens Co. Commission To Be Asked To Move Forward With Land Use

The Stephens County Land Use Regulation Committee wants county commissioners to make a decision on whether or not they want to move forward with the creation of a land use plan for Stephens County.

Monday, the committee met and voted 7 to 1 to place a motion before county commissioners at their March 26 meeting asking them to move forward with the creation of a land use regulation plan.

Committee member Cynthia Brown is one of the “yes” votes.

She said they feel that the time has come on this issue in Stephens County.

“We are not looking to do anything that is going to do harm to our citizens or businesses that are there,” said Brown. “We want to move ahead with a community that attracts good jobs that allow people to make a living and to do it in an environment that is safe and healthy.”

Brown said that land use is also a mechanism for preventing undesirable businesses and industries from not locating in Stephens County.

In its motion, the committee also pointed to land use plans in place in Franklin and Madison counties as a starting point for Stephens County.

Brown said that those two counties have simple and flexible plans, adding that Franklin County’s has seemed to stand up well.

“The Franklin County plan has been enacted six or seven years and they have never had to be in court to defend it,” said Brown. “I think that says a lot about the balance they found when they put the plan together and that the various sectors of the community have been able to work together to make it happen for the good of everybody there.”

Brown said it is important to receive a lot of public input if the decision is made to move forward with a plan and create a plan that will meet Stephens County’s needs and be adaptable over time.

Fellow committee member Brown Dean opposes moving forward with a plan and was the “no” vote against the motion.

In a written statement, Dean said he is not against ordinances but is against agricultural zoning ordinances because he wants to protect local farms.

Dean said that he is against zoning because “zoning regulations can have serious economic consequences for a community and its farmers.”

To those who oppose land use, Brown said it is a matter of making sure everyone is protected against those who would do things on their property that could harm their neighbor’s properties and property values.

“What we are doing is putting a mechanism there to protect the farmers and the people who own property in subdivisions that do not have covenants and people who live down on the lake and want to do that,” said Brown. “It is being a good neighbor and if people are not willing to do that voluntarily, then somebody has to look at it objectively and make certain that the mechanism is in place to protect (people).”

Meanwhile, Dean went on to say in his written statement that “what is intended for the common good when it comes to property has forced many farmers into the collapse of their business and way of life.”

Adding that solutions are not simple, he goes on to say that even well intended efforts can run astray.

The Stephens County Commission is expected to take up the Land Use Regulations Committee’s request at its March 26 meeting.

The Land Use Regulations Committee began meeting last September and since then, has met with numerous individuals that deal with land use and planning issues in northeast Georgia. The county commission had formed the committee to look closely at the issue of land use.