Year In Review 2013: Stephens Co. Draws Up Land Use Proposal

The end of another year is upon us, which means it is time to take a look at some of the top stories from the last 12 months in Toccoa and Stephens County.

One of those top stories was the county moving ahead with drawing up a proposed land use plan.

In 2012, Stephens County formed a Land Use Regulations Committee to look into the matter and this past March, that committee recommended moving forward with the design of a land use plan for county commissioners to consider adopting.

County commissioners unanimously approved that recommendation, which called on StephensCounty to use the plans in Franklin and Madison counties as a guide.

Stephens County Commissioner Dean Scarborough said back in March that the county is dealing with issues now because land use was not in place before and added that the county could not afford to wait any longer.

“If we do not do it, we could have several more Wilbros,” said Scarborough, referring specifically to the Rose Lane business causing controversy over its odors.  “We will not be able to afford to take every single one of them to court.  We have already found out that the state will not protect us in this instance.  We are finding out the court is not a lot of help right now either.  We have got to protect ourselves and now is the time to do it.”

Commissioner Debbie Whitlock and Chairman Stanley London expressed concerns about land use, but voted for the motion to draw up the proposal.

London said in March he would the committee an opportunity to work on the issue.

“I do appreciate this committee,” said London.  “I am glad that we have some new members on it.  When I open those two (plans) mentioned in this motion, it does scare me.  Again, hopefully you as a committee can work something out.”

After that vote by commissioners, the committee went about the work of drawing up a plan and it completed its work in December.

Committee Spokesperson Cynthia Brown said that it has settled by consensus on a draft land use plan for the county commission to consider.

She said the committee feels the proposal it is putting forward accomplishes the goal of protecting current and future property owners.

“This just gives us protection from certain elements that would perhaps be detrimental community,” said Brown.  “In order for someone to invest in StephensCounty, they have to know that their investment is protected.”

The plan is expected to come before the county commission during the first quarter of 2014.

For more on this and other top stories during the last 12 months, tune in to AM 630 WNEG’s “Year in Review News Program” this week.

It will air Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. and Friday at 4:30 p.m.