MINUTES

HENRY COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIOSNERS

HENRY COUNTY-MUNICIPAL PLANNING COMMISSION

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Henry County Administration Building

140 Henry Parkway

McDonough, Georgia 30253                           

 

The Henry County Board of Commissioners, Henry County Municipal Planning Commission, along with the appointed Steering Committee for the Comprehensive Plan, held a public meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 9, 2004, in the Henry County Administration Building, 140 Henry Parkway, McDonough, Georgia.  The Daily Herald was notified of the meetings.  Those present were:

 

            Board of Commissioners:

            Leland Maddox, Chairman

            Lee Holman, Vice-chairman, District V Commissioner

            Warren E. Holder, District I Commissioner

            Gary M. Freedman, District II Commissioner

            Jason Harper, District III Commissioner

            Gerry Adams, District IV Commissioner

            Elizabeth “B. J.” Mathis, District II Commissioner-elect

            Randy Stamey, District III Commissioner-elect

 

            Municipal Planning Commission:

            Gary Schafer, Chairman, District III

            Scott McCarter, Vice-chairman, City of Locust Grove

            Thomas Solomon, District I

            Bill McLeer, District II

            Michael Eddy, District IV

            Dawn Davis, District V

            Ray McDonald, city of Stockbridge

 

            Steering Committee:

            E. J. Thomas, Chairman

            Ken Smith, District II

            Al D. Hosford, District III

            Richard A. Grimes, District IV

            Chris Marsengill, P. E., District V

            Keith Seiler, Chamber of Commerce

            Stan Cameron, Quality Growth Council

            Sam Ahern, Hospital Authority

            Dr. Jack Parish, Board of Education

            Jack Elkins, Farm Bureau

            Andy Johnson, Soil & Water Conservation

 

Chairman Schafer:  “This is the meeting that the Planning Commission has called.  We wanted to get all three (3) groups together to discuss the 2025 Comprehensive Plan.  First of all, I would like to make sure that everyone has a copy of tonight’s agenda.  We are starting a couple of minutes late.  We were to begin at 6:00.  I am going to open up tonight by just stating where we stand, the Planning Commission stands, on the Comprehensive Plan so we can all get up to speed; what our schedule is from this point going forward; and obviously, tonight we want to share dialogue between the Planning Commission, the Board of Commissioners, and the Steering Committee, and Ron Huffman from HDR.  Prior to this point, there have been total of twenty-two (22) meetings throughout the County from October 20, 2003 to April 13, 2004, where the meetings have been held throughout the County in various locations to get public comment, public input.  I believe Ron, from HDR, or someone from HDR, has attended those meetings and there have also been a number of Planning Commission members that have attended and Planning Staff members as well.  What HDR did for those meetings is

They took the public comment and they worked from those and tried to incorporate those into the plan, as well as comments from the Steering Committee.  After that, we, the Planning Commission, were given a draft of the Comprehensive Plan that we have painstakingly gone through, literally line by line, from June through November of this year.  It has taken us more than seven (7) meetings to do that.  After that, HDR and Ron, in particular, went through and made some notations and changes, revisions, to what they had originally drafted for this Comprehensive Plan.  That is where we stand now.  Our schedule is; tonight we wanted to have this joint meeting, again, so that everyone is kind of on the same page as where we stand as a Planning Commission.  Next Wednesday we are going to entertain solely public comment, Wednesday night from 6:00 P.M. to 900 P.M., possibly 10:00 P.M., depending on the number of citizens that are there.  During our workshop sessions that we have had over the last seven weeks discussing this, we did not entertain public comment, simply because there was so much information that we wanted to get through and it took us seven (7) meetings to do that.  We want to have one night of solely public comment, which will be next Wednesday; then next Thursday, the 18th of November, at that time we want to make a formal recommendation and send this on to the Board of Commissioners for their review following that.  So, the goal of tonight’s meetings is, again, is just to get everyone on the same page, share some dialogue with all the Board members that are here.  There is a lot of information that we can discuss, but it is important, I think, that we don’t get too bogged down on any one thing and that we stay on schedule for tonight.  AT this time I am going to turn it over to Ron Huffman from HDR, and he is going to give us a summary until around 7:00.  During that time if there is anyone from the Planning Commission that wants to interject, has any comments or things they wish to add to that, this would be the appropriate time to do so.  At 7:00 we will take a quick break, we come back for 40 minutes of comment from the Steering Committee, following will be another break, and then we will have comments from the Board of Commissioners.  Again, I think, for the Planning Commissions sake, it is very important that we hold this meeting tonight so that we have an idea of each Board, where they stand on this, various comments that they may have, because again, next Thursday we wish to make a formal recommendation and send this on to the Board of Commissioners.  Before I turn it over to Ron, I will ask if there is anyone here that wishes to comment before we begin going through this tonight?”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “Mr. Chairman, I’ll just make and announcement that Chairman Maddox is on his way.  He will be about thirty minutes late.  That is typical of what this Board does, I think we need to state it up front.  In the absence of Chairman Maddox, do I hear a motion to accept the agenda?”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “So moved.”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “Do I hear a second?”

 

Commissioner Holder:  “Second.”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “I have a motion and a second.  All in favor raise your hand.  All opposed like sign.  The Board of Commissioners is in session.”

 

The vote was 5-0, as Chairman Maddox was not present at this time.

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Any other comments anyone wishes to make before we begin the comments from HDR?”

 

Commissioner Holder:  “Mr. Chairman, at the appropriate time, I would like to enter into the record a letter form my Steering Committee appointee who was not able to attend tonight.  He had a planned a trip several months in advance and so was not able to be here, so at the appropriate time, I would like to read his comments as a Committee member into the record.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “We will do that in the Steering Committee comment section from 7:10P.M. to 7:50 P.M.”

 

Commissioner Holder:  “Very good.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Any other comments?  Alright Ron, if you would like to begin with a summary of the Plan.”

 

Ron Huffman:  “I am excited and glad that you are all here.  I really did not plan a 50 minutes of monologue, so hopefully you want ask me to do 50 minutes of page by page.  I would like to go through this as best I can as to where we are to date, the changes we have made.  Gary has explained a lot, but I am just going to go through it.  Roughly, one tab at a time but in a summary way to expedite the information that is here.  We have, and hopefully you have received in one form or another, a copy of the latest addition of the Henry County Comprehensive Plan.  I will call your attention right to the very beginning.  I really don’t know a quicker way to go through it.  As we leaf through it, and you really don’t have to try to keep up; I am just going to hit the highlights and hopefully you can enjoy your dinner while I talk and understand that we have made some revisions and tried to make it a little more user friendly.  First off, there was an organizational issue with the plan.  The original Plan had the first chapter as Goals and Policies; and we made a change to where the goals and policies now are a chapterless chapter rather than a number chapter right at the front of the document, because the State Law asks that we have eight (8) elements, and we decided that it would be prudent to make sure that each tab coincided with these eight (8) corresponding elements, so we have the Goals and Policies right up front.  I realize the election is over, but all the pages, it is ironic, because all of the Goals and Policies are labeled GOP 1, 2, 3.  No favoritism intended.  It is an organizational thing here that the Goals and Policies are right up front.  If you have been to any of our meetings, you have heard me talk about how important the Goals and Policies to the Comprehensive Plan and what they mean.  When we talk about the seven (7) or eight (8) meetings we had with the Planning Commission, where we went line by line, it was the Goals and Policies, by and larger, that we covered, word smithed every single word within those seventy or so pages of Goals and Policies.  On front of that, I think per request, we have a list of anachronisms in there that are actually a lead in for those of us who don’t understand what all those anachronisms are.  There were some general goals that were abstracted.  We actually grouped those goals according to the eight elements, as well.  Then we have the Goals and Policies.  The Goals, Objectives, and Policies are numbered.  It is a very important numbering system, as you go through natural resources it is given a heading number I and there is a policy under it, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; and that refers directly to Tab One, which is technically the first chapter, which is Natural Resources.  So, as you go through the Goals and Policies, anything with a number such as 4.2, directly relates to Tab Four, which is Community Facilities.  So the numbering is very critical, and if you get into the swing of how this is set up, it is pretty easy to flip back and forth and see how all this works; and then when we get to Tab Nine, which is the Short Term Work Program, it is critically important because the Short Term Work Program relates directly back to the Goals and Policies.  What I would ask is, and hopefully you have taken the time to go through the Goals and Policies, we word smithed them; we also, as a change from last time, took the Goals and Policies drafted by the Economic Development Goals and Policies by the Development Authority, we took the old ones out and put those in in their entirety.  There is some slight rewording and numbering to be consistent with the Plan and the organization of the plan, but that is a big change in Goals and Policies.  Otherwise, I would ask that you all, if you get the chance, take the time to read them.  I can’t possibly go into all the details here.  When I get to the Short Term Work Program I will hit the highlights of what are in these Goals and Policies and how they relate to the Plan.  The big change in there is the deletion of the old and the addition of the new; that is basically seven or eight pages of work.  As we go through the tab in here the first tab is Natural resources.  There are a lot of changes there.  How this stage works with the State Department of Community Affairs, is, they require these eight elements, and there are minimum data requirements, and they are in there.  There may be some reformatting, some new data in there.  Essentially what we did in there was fill in the blanks where we were missing a few pieces of date, re-tabulated it, and inserted it in the corresponding chapter, so as you read Goals and Policies, if you are interested in data related to that of Natural Resources or any of the elements, that is what is in each of these tabs.  Tab One is Natural and Cultural Resources; Tab Two is Population, it directly corresponds to Human and Social Development as far as Goals and Policies.  The Population has not had a lot of change, but what we did try to do was introduce newer data.  We tried to introduce and bring some consistency.  We were caught a little bit in between because the Department of Community Affairs requires that we develop a plan using what is called Plan Builder, which is a software program developed by the Department of Community Affairs, in which they provide data that they would like to see in the plan, and as you know from today’s addition, the data that we were provided was a little bit out of date and not consistent with the data used to develop the Impact Fee Report.  We tried to introduce all those data sources in this section and at least explain how and why they are there and where they come from.  That is one of the big changes in the Population Element; otherwise you have to read all the details.  We filled in some more tabular data that was required.  Tab three, in Housing; I don’t think there was; there was little to no change in there, again, except filling in data requirements for UCA.  Tab Four, Community Facilities, has a lot of additions that were not in the draft in May.

Community Facilities has a lot to do with your County, all the things from Libraries, police, fire, everything that makes up a community service or facility in the County.  We had a very difficult time getting Department Heads and others to give us that data to put in the Plan.  It took time to assemble that data, so there is some new information for you to look at and some new maps.  Transportation has got some things filled in as well.  Most of you probably know that there is a Transportation Plan going on in the County, so I won’t take a lot of time on that at all really, other than we tried to provide the minimum for the Department of Community Affairs, but we know and we have made references to the new Transportation Plan that is being prepared.  Economic Development did not have a lot of changes there.  Only changes that were requested, additions, and again, to be in consistency with the State were put in there.  Chapter Seven, Land Use; there actually are some substantive changes there.  We would prefer you save that for last, but there are some interesting things to take a look at when you get the chance.  Once we altered our population projections to look at the targeted population somewhere over four thousand (4,000), you will see that it had a great impact on the land resources that are available in the County and if you study those numbers you will realize that the only way to accommodate that kind of population growth with the land resources that you have is to increase density in the County.  It is the only way it is going to work.  That is new and we would encourage you to take a look at that, but we will save that for the end with the map that goes with it.  Future Governmental Coordination, I don’t think there are a lot of changes there.  It is a small section that is sort of self-explanatory. We know, in a complex County with all the cities, we need to work on our governmental coordination.  What I would like to do is get to the last section, because it really is my thought to go through some of the key recommendations are in the plan and how it all works.  The last Tab is the Short Term Work Program. You have heard me make reference to the Goals and Policies being the heart and soul of the Plan; but really what the end result of all this actually is, is the Short Term Work Program.  It is not a map.  It is not goals and policies per se.  It is actually this last tab, which is a recommendation that the Board of Commissioners look at for implementing many of the ideas and concepts in this plan.  It is called short term because the State asks that we develop a list, a five (5) year list, of projects to implement concepts within this plan.  It is a measurable list and every year the County will be asked to give an update of the status of the list, and why something has or has not been implemented that is on the list.  To date, other than the Planning Commission, this Short Term Work Program is wide open for discussion.  Obviously, everything in here is, but this is critical.  This is what is moving forward that says we as a Board of Commissioners agree that this is what needs to be done in the next five (5) years, and we concur with it.  What we did with the Planning Commission is go through the Goals and Policies, and we determined as a group what we thought should be implemented in the next five (5) years and what should probably be put out in the twenty (20) year window instead of Short Term, and that is what is represented in this tab.  What I would like to do is just go through and hit some of the highlights by element in the Short Term Work Program so you can get a flavor of what some of the things are we are looking at recommending.  It is recommended here and open for discussion.  It is organized exactly like the Goals and Policies are, first page of the tabular charts there are looking at the Cultural Resources and then the actual Strategies and Action Items we looked to implement are numbered, and those numbers directly correspond with the Goals and Policies.  It may seem kind of silly, but what the Department of Community Affairs is looking for is a common thread.  They want to know that you didn’t arbitrarily come up with a Short Term Work Program item.  They want to see that there is a direct correlation to a Goal and Policy. They want to see data to support it and then, of course, they want to see the Short Term Work Program.  That is why these reference numbers in here are pretty critical.  But, quickly, some of the things we recommended under Natural Resources, and I am not going to read the details, but just hit some of the highlights as I sat and looked through this with my highlighter: Developing a Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan is recommended; creating and adopting a Green Infrastructure Network in the County and Green Infrastructure Sub-committee, starting to look at some of the open space issues and preservations of it; hiring a County Arborist is recommended; securing future sites for recreation, for looking  at the growth of over 400,000 plus people in the county and providing for future recreational is probably going to be a critical issue; establishing a Historic Preservation Committee.  We discovered there is a need to inventory documents and historic resources.  We ought to have a Committee to help with that and some type of walking and driving tours within the County, and even creating and Arts Council.  Many of the items in the Short Term Work Program will have, to some extent, no cost.  If it is an appointment of a group of organize a committee, there may be no cost in it.  I think one of the most interesting things when you read through this is how many items can just be action items and are not really capital expenditures.  There are others that are capital expenditures but others that aren’t.  We also split each element in the Short Term Work Program into Code Related items.  We discovered in all the conversations and all the meetings, that there are many, many items that come up over and over again that seemed really like they belonged in a Code revision.  Instead of making a single action item to address one issue, we grouped them all together by element and it has become sort of a handy reference as you go through here, there are dozens of Code related items that we think, basically, some one needs to take a look at all of these and look at during the process of re-writing the Unified Land Development Code, or whatever, that we look at making some code revisions on everything from Stormwater Management Solutions to Design Guidelines.  Some of these Codes related things are state mandated and they are here because they need to be cross-referenced and they need to be adopted by the County, the Groundwater Recharge Area, and things that absolutely have to be protected.  We talked about open space set-a-sides in development.  That, to me, is a code related issue that needs to be talked about: pedestrian and bike lanes.  A lot of these things are concepts that can be put in your Code, especially in the development regulations, sort of a highlights of natural resources.  Population, Human and Social Development, as we recall, some of the highlights there were setting aside land for creating incentives for colleges, for nearby local colleges and universities to set up campuses; working with alternative education programs.  We did not really get into Code issues there.  Another thing we talked about was design guidelines for infill development, for architectural boards, training for county building inspection personnel, a pro-active code enforcement to help with vacant structures and junk automobiles, things like that.  We even put in here develop a reward program for development that exceeds expectations, that exceeds the standards that we see in county regulations; so kind of reward program.  Code related items under housing, again, talks about boundaries, buffers, infill housing and design standards, portable built housing, maybe requiring energy efficiency and maybe establishing an incentive program for energy efficiency and landscaping.  As I keep moving through here, under Community Facilities, the next tab, some of the highlights there, implementing countywide bicycle/pedestrian plan.  We felt like we wanted to look at the efficiency and cost effectiveness of public safety.  Establish a task force for the Board of Education to look at coordinating schools and road improvements.  We know that those get tied together.  We heard a lot about that.  Improving vehicle and pedestrian access around hospital; library services, and expanding library services at a community facility; developing curbside or some sort of recycling program was mentioned.  In addition, we have Code related items, basically what we are asking is the Development Plan and Capital Improvement Plan work together, and we think that can be handled in your code issues.  Transportation Element highlights include really working with the Transportation Plan that is in progress now.  It is absolutely critical; and then we supplement that with some other ideas and guide lines for parking; looking at your railroad crossings in the county and trying to work to eliminate most of those.  Maybe a freight study needs to be done.  Code related items in transportation; things we talked about was way finding and financing were issues that needed to be looked at in codes, and of course sidewalks and some other pedestrian friendly items that could be related to the code, code required.”

 

Chairman Maddox entered the meeting at 6:32 P.M.

 

Ron Huffman:  “Economic Development: the first four we listed was developing and infrastructure plan, a Countywide Infrastructure Plan; then some of the critical issues under Economic Development; securing commercial and industrial zoning in strategic areas of the county, and in support of that, many things are listed in the Short Term Work Program about promotional materials.  There are quite a few things listed in there under the GIS data banks.   We see the County’s GIS as a great tool that they and the Economic Development can work together to keep that GIS data base and mapping data base up to date and current with the land and resources information, related work force and industrial locations among other things are in there.  It talks about creating Work Force Development Council in there.  Code related items and economic development.  We talk about properly zoned land again. Aesthetics standards and even something we see in many of the counties around metro, one stop permitting.  It makes it easier to get your projects permitted.  Land Use, real quickly, we have been talking about many code related items, curb cuts, and an assortment of other things that can be straightened up like signage, can all be handled in the code.  Under Interdepartmental Coordination, the last section, there are just a whole host of no cost items in the Short Term Work Program; talking about a liaison to the Board of Education, the North Georgia Water Protection Agency, ARC, the Housing Authority, BOC; all listed in there under Intergovernmental Coordination; and the final one looking at goals in there.  I am suppose to share time with the Planning Commission, so I hit this real fast so it could be understood.  The Planning Commission might want to jump in here after this.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “I would like to make a couple of quick comments. First of all, I didn’t way this earlier, but for those of you that are here tonight, if you could sign in on the sign in sheet, that way we could have a record of who attended tonight.  Also, this meeting is welcome to the public; however we are not taking public comment.  As I mentioned earlier, the Planning Commission will have a meeting next Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00 PM in the Community Room where we will entertain solely public comment for that time from 6:00 to 9:00 or to 10:00, depending on the turn out.  Tonight is just a joint meeting of the Planning Commission, the Board of Commissioners, and the Steering Committee.  As far as comments from the Planning Commission, I would just like to start out by saying that when we, the Planning Commission, went through this plan, and looking at the Short Term Work Program, if you look at the table that is before us tonight, you will have the Policy and Action Strategy, the year for completion or starting, and there is also a column for cost.  We did not focus on the cost.  Actually, as we were going through this, that was not something that we really looked at.  We just went through the Plan itself, and when we got the revised plan last week and we met with HDR to go through this, it was important for us to note for tonight that we not focus on the cost involved.  Obviously, that will be a major concern for the Board of Commissioners, but when we went through this identifying the action strategies, we did not focus on that.  I don’t want anyone to get bogged down to much on that tonight, because there will be a later date and time for that.”

 

Ron Huffman:  “We have to provide a cost, but at this point it is an estimate.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Are there any comments from the Planning Commission on the Plan?  Again, I think the purpose for tonight’s meeting, at least for us, is again, for the three Boards to sit together, because next week we do plan on Thursday night to make a recommendation to send this on to the Board of Commissioners and we want as much input as possible from the public; the Steering Committee, as you have been intimately involved with this; and the Board of Commissioners as well.  Looking at the agenda tonight, we are a little bit ahead of scheduled, so with that in mind I would like to ask if there are comments from the Steering Committee.  I know Mr. Holder said he had a comment he would like to read from one of the Steering Committee members that is not with us this evening.”

 

Ron Huffman:  “Let me ask you real quick before we do that, just that an understanding of the procedures and your meeting next week and where we are heading with this; that this meeting, your meeting, is not an adoption meeting; the Board of Commissioners meeting is not an adoption meeting.  Actually, what we are trying to do, what we are leading to, is trying to get the Board of Commissioners pass a resolution to transmit the plan to the Atlanta Regional Commission for their review.  It is not an adoption resolution at all.  It just says we have prepared a plan and we need your review, and ARC and the Department of Community Affairs will take a couple of months or more to review it, and they will hold their own public meetings.  I just wanted everyone to understand that; so, I procedure here is not adoption.  I would expect adoption not to come until after we receive comments, ARC will hold meetings with adjacent jurisdictions, the counties, your neighbors.  They will take two or three months and I think we are probably looking at February or later, depending on when it gets through the bureaucracy, and then it comes back here.  Again, when it comes back here, the Board of Commissioners will be asked to hold a public hearing at that point, too, before adoption.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “There is a series of public hearings that will be held.”

Bill McLeer:  “One comment, Ron, this won’t come back to the Planning and Zoning Board; it will just go directly to the Board of Commissioners after the ARC sees it.”

 

Ron Huffman:  “That is the protocol.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “At this time I will ask for the Chairman of the Steering Committee to start off with comments from the Steering Committee; given that we are a little bit ahead of schedule, we will stop at 7:00 and take a ten (10) minutes break.”

 

E. J. Thomas, Steering Committee Chairman:  “Mr. Chairman, the Steering Committee was formed a little over a year ago to guide the process of the working of the Comprehensive Plan.  We have worked together for over a year and we have some comments and some observations I would like for each one to affirm.  First of all, the comment that Mr. Fuerth sent to Warren Holder, you can start with that and after your comment we can start with Mr. Grimes for each comment from each member.”

 

Commissioner Holder:  “As I said earlier in the meeting, this is a letter that was sent to me by the Steering Committee Member from District I.  He was not able to be here tonight.  He had a planed trip and could not attend.  I think some of you have received copies of this letter that are on the Steering Committee and I don’t know that anyone has received it, but I would like to read it in so that it will be part of the record.  The letter says: (Letter follows as transmitted.)

 

                                                                                                                 November 2, 2004

Commissioner Holder,

 

First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve our great dynamic county as the District One Representative on the Henry County Steering Committee. It is most enlightening to see the process unfold and to be a part of it.

 

As the District One person I will address the difficulties as I see them in my district. The two maps I have provided represent two very different density situations. The first map remained mostly unchanged from March 22 to October 22.  This period takes in the time of most of the public meetings and the time of the citizen input into the land use plan. As far as I can tell, there were no major complaints or negative input about the density allocations in District One. I know the District I is in the Tussahaw Watershed, I also know for the most part, it is in the non-critical area.

 

The reasons and they are good ones, for the allocation of the medium density allocation in the area are as follows: (1) The ARC and other state agencies encourage higher density in areas served by sewer and water (both are present in the district). (2) They also encourage higher density in areas close to the Interstate interchanges (there are 2 here) and major arteries (Highway 42—inevitably a major connecting road). (3) District One is the buffer zone between McDonough and Locust Grove and there is an opportunity for the county to have a plan in place that will keep everyone from trying to get into either city by having some reasonable planning in this very quickly growing area. (4) The density allocation in map two will not hold up in court. After all this work we certainly do not want an untenable plan. The facts are that in numerous parts of the non-critical watershed area, there is already R2, R3, and PD zoning.

 

In conversation with Dr. Couch, the Georgia State EPD Director, when she spoke at the Quality Growth luncheon, she said that the state of Georgia is very interested in higher density areas served by sewer, as that is the best way to preserve our storm water runoff. Also, she was very clear that with all the new semi permeable materials there was no need for buffer zones or barriers in non-critical areas of the watershed.

 

Another area of District One, I believe needs to be looked at again before any final plan is executed, is along the proposed eastern corridor where no area for development is shown. This seems very short sited for a twenty-year plan. It is not realistic.

 

My area is only District One, but I know there are problems in other areas that have not been addressed. As your Representative for District One, I could not in good conscience recommend adoption of this plan as it currently stands.

 

                                                                                       Sincerely,

             

                                                                           Mike Fuerth, Steering Committee,

                                                                                   District One”

 

E. J. Thomas, Chairman:  “Am I to understand that the Commissioners will take under advisement comments we make from the Steering Committee?”

 

Commissioner holder:  “Mr. Chairman, I would hope so.”

 

E. J. Thomas, Chairman:  “Can we start with Mr. Grimes on the end if you have any comments?”

 

Mr. Richard Grimes:  “I just wanted to say what a privilege it has been to serve on the Committee, and it has been most informative.  I am representing District IV.  I don’t have any specific comments, but I do about several of the comments by the Steering Committee.  Thank you.”

 

Dr. Jack Parrish:  “Well, I do appreciate the opportunity to have participated in this effort.  It is a lot to try and read and comprehend in a short amount of time.  You have probably guessed that I would focus more and look at the area of public education in the County.  Looking at some of the date included in the plan, especially to the student population projections, it appears to be a much less or more conservative population projections than we have.  It is shoeing in one table, by the year 2010, having incurred 25,600 students; and we already have today 32,400 students; so to think that we are going to cap it at that level over a period of time would be nice, but it doesn’t seem to follow the trend that we have been seeing for the past several years.  Because of that, it would be a hard questioning how much of the data in this particular section is valid.”

 

Mr. Jack Elkins:  “Thank you, if you don’t mind I will stand up.  I am Jack Elkins with Henry County Farm Bureau and we represent the agricultural community in the County.  I have, as confusing as it is, have found certain areas that trouble me.  My personal view, and from the beginning of the first public input through the meetings and workshops, there has been a focus on the preservation of prime farmland in the County.  This seems to be a unanimous consent that we need to preserve farmland.  I would ask you to consider that greenspace is one thing; prime farmland is something else.  We have State programs and Federal programs to preserve greenspace.  Our focus is on maintaining farms.  They have tremendous value to the community.  The May 3rd version of the plan, had specifically in chapter one, it had listed whether the objective was to conserve prime agricultural areas within Henry County as economic and natural resources, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  My study of the October version, and this may be wrong; that my perception is that prime farmland has sort of drifted off into the background without any emphasis anymore.  There is a lot of emphasis to greenways and bike paths and rock outcroppings and slopes, but there is very little said about one of our grandest natural resources, and that is keep working farms in Henry County.  There is one place in action strategy 1.8 on page 9, and I have notes on this if Ron or the secretary would like to have them; it simply states to implement a transfer of development rights (TDR) program to conserve important natural resources.  At least this is a start, but it still doesn’t specify any agricultural areas.  From all the emphasis on preservation on farmland, chapter 6 of the Unified Development Code, has a section in it and it is the Transfer of Development Rights, and the purpose in that section is to preserve open space, natural resources, natural features and agricultural land.  Ron, it would make me feel better, and I may be wrong, if the verbiage from the purpose in the Unified Land Development Code was simply added to the TDR program.  I don’t want to take up all the time, but I want you to understand that there are one and a half TDR programs in the state.  There is one in South Fulton County.  Over there they used some tax money, some private money, to buy development rights.  When you buy the development rights on a farmland; you simple cannot develop it, but it stays as agriculture.  One or two conflicts that I saw Ron alluded, it wasn’t necessarily, but in the code, to get participants to where they could keep farms as specified but there is know public access when the development right is bought.  In other words, the farm stays in farming and nothing else and the public doesn’t have any access.  I remember some where in one of the sections it said to do TDRs to amass land for future parks.  That would be a conflict because the code doesn’t allow it.  Anyhow, that needs to be to my mind; Commissioners, it needs to be clear that we are still focused on preserving prime farmland.  The purpose of our TDRs is, as I started to say, South Fulton has one that uses some tax dollars and private money.  Carroll County almost has one and they use nothing but tax money to but the TDRs.  Henry is so unique because our TDR uses no tax money.  IT is to let a developer buy the right s on a piece of farmland and let them move it over to where there are sewer lines and roads and all the infrastructure that would support higher density.  They can build higher, and then the farm land is preserved, not by tax dollars, but by the builder and all these people that are going to move here in the future; which brings me to another point.  In the Republican page 9, h-4, it says ‘Offer development incentives such as density bonuses.’  I don’t know what that means, but it sounds to me like it gives the Commissioners the opportunity to simply give another man identified as a developer, that they happen to choose, to let them build higher density.  If you do that, which is within your rights, I suppose; but then the farmland preservation is going to have to be paid for by all tax dollars.  Under the TDR system in Henry County, the developers are buying the development rights and in return getting higher density.  You can’t have a buy them on one side and give them away on the other; so, I would like to see that simply taken out.  To my mind, Gary Freedman, and Jack Elkins, and fifteen or sixteen other people spent nearly a year and developed a Tree Preservation Ordinance in this County that I think is as good as it can get when you consider conservation of trees and peoples’ property rights.  So you agree with that Gary?”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “Yes, sir.”

 

Jack Elkins:  “Please make a note on that Ron, Gary and I agreed on something.  What we have is we have alluded to this Tree Ordinance and it says that we would increase the tree density by 1% per year for twenty years.  I am here to tell you that in 1997, when the last southeast forest was inventoried, 54% of the landmass in this County was covered in trees and this is forestland.  This is not on the roadways and in people’s yards.  If I had to bet a nickel, I would bet that today it is still better than 50%.  If you adopt this by requiring the addition of 1% of the landmass per year, then in 2025 we are going to have better than 70%.  I think that is unrealistic and I also think it is unnecessary, because trees, contrary to common belief, trees while we are meeting and eating and sleeping, trees are growing.  They are going to spread themselves and my example is that in my hay field I would estimate that I dig up between five and seven hundred trees a year.  That is because the trees are going to spread.  They are going to grow up everywhere if you will turn your back on them.  The group has spent so much time on the Tree Ordinance ultimately agreed that to give the property owners their rights to have or not have trees.  When I say their rights; the ordinance can require me to put ‘X’ number of trees on a lot in a subdivision, but when the new owner buys it he can cut it all down if he wishes.  When you deal with this and give the people their rights, the paragraph o, which follows that in the ordinance, to hire an arborist, this group that spent the fourteen to fifteen months and concluded we don’t need an arborist in the county.  Now, the only way you could need one is if you are going to meet back in the back and start getting County Commissioners to give permission to cut down a tree in your yard and let the arborist certify what it’s proper name is and if it is diseased or not diseased, but my personal view, and that isn’t a requirement of any of if, but we don’t think we need an arborist; but we need to take a long look at a requirement to increase tree density every year and we need to take a long look at giving away high density with know requirements.  We have the TDR.  Danny Taylor has done a fantastic job in getting a TDR Program that is unique and it is good, and let’s don’t undermine it by having a second program that simply gives away high density rights.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “Mr. Chairman, can I ask Jack a question?  About farmland, Jack, did you read page, new page 1-18.  I don’t know if everybody has that, but that is in the new chapter one.  I agree with you on farmland and I want to clarify what you are saying.  Let me state it and clarify it too.  It sounds like you are saying we need to preserve farmland, maybe I misinterpreted it, at least have TDR to offset the farmland; but when I read this thing it says the average size of farms increased while the number of farms decreased.  They got bigger, although the number of them got smaller.  It also says the average market value of agricultural products sold per farm decreased from 21,363 to 20,337 from ’96 to ’97.  I guess my question is, because every time somebody comes to me, that want to develop the land, it is farmland that their grandfather died or the father died and the younger generation doesn’t want to farm it, and they want to sell it off.  I don’t know if there is an economy here where we should preserve farmland but nobody wants to farm it; or if we are saying just give up the rights to not develop it and transfer those rights somewhere else.  It sounds like nobody wants to farm”

 

Jack Elkins:  “I would like to clarify that.  The one thing that I was challenged by the committee; when we talked about this is the preservation of the farmland, and Warren Holder got after me about this, it is 100% voluntary, 100%.  If you want to sell your land to a developer, then that is precisely your right.  A person like myself, and this is hard to believe unless you live there, it is hard to believe that you have an attachment to a piece of land.  We have got Board Members at Farm Bureau that eighty years ago were born and raised on their farmland and they just want it to stay in farmland.  There is a small percentage, Gary, that want to preserve their land.  I happen to be one.  The problem is, and it is pretty simple; the problem is that the wife and I want it to stay in farmland. If heaven forbid the day when both of us die and there is not one child in the family that could buy the other s out, okay. So, the TDR is a means for somebody just like myself to take the minimum is fifteen acres in the code, you can sell fifteen (15) TDRs or you can get approval and stick them in the bank.  When we die the children have fifteen (15) little certificates that we trust have increased to $25,000.00 a piece and land is selling for $39,000.00 an acre now for development rights.  It is a means to leave it in farmland but the heirs get something out of it.  You are absolutely right, without this we have the death tax killed from now to 2011, January 1, 2011, but people, the children have to sell the land because they can’t sell the development rights to other people.  It is an option.  It is no requirement for anybody to sign up for the development rights.  Every landowner in the county could sell all their land.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Thank you.”

 

Stan Cameron:  “Mr. Chairman, my name is Stan Cameron.  I am the representative from the Henry Council for Quality Growth, and I offer to keep my comments brief this evening.  First of all, I think, it is obvious that annexation is a real problem in our County.  I don’t feel like the developed plan addresses that issue adequately.  As an example, I will just point to the area surrounding the City of Locust Grove.   I think Commissioner Holder would agree with me that annexation has been a problem there.  I think anytime that there is agricultural land under the Land Use Plan that adjoins a city land lot, then I think that is a problem.  I think that is an open invitation for a developer to come in an annex into the cities.  I don’t think that is adequately addressed.  The second thing is, I feel like the Land Use Plan is already outdated, and I understand the nature of this plan is that is simply a road map, and I understand that is evolves constantly; but, I would think that at least, as of a certain date, of a date certain, that the Map would be accurate.  I point out to two (2) inconsistencies that one of our members, John Palmer, pointed out that two (2) of our largest develops, in fact, within the County: one, the Eagle Brook Country Club, is designated industrial under the Land Use Plan; the second, Heron Bay, which is a huge development is designated as agricultural under the plan.  These are not developments that were started three (3) or six (6) months ago.  They were probably rezoned at least two (2) years ago.  I would hope that we could say that we have been dealing with an outdated map for many years.  I think that right now we are under the 2001 map, before that it was 1993.  It would be, I think, useful to the County, if we could say that at least as of December 31, 2004, or whatever specific date that this map accurately reflects existing land uses within the County.  I feel like this map is something that we are going to live with for several years.  It is going to be critical every time a new zoning decision is made.  I would think that would be the first argument either for or against a project that either it is in accordance with the Land Use Plan or it is not.  I would hope that since we have gone to all of this trouble over all these months; and I appreciate all the efforts of the Planning Commission and the Board of Commissioners and HDR but; I would hope that it would at least be accurate as of a certain point.  I don’t think this is accurate within the past couple of years.  That is all I have.  Thank you.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Thank you, sir.  At this time, it is 7:00.  We are going to take a ten (10) minutes break as suggested on the agenda.  We will reconvene at 7:10.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “It is 7:10.  I reconvene the meeting.  I would like to begin with the next Steering Committee member wishing to broadcast the comments on the plan.”

 

Dawn Davis:  “I would like to address the question of Mr. Cameron’s if I may.  You are either opposed or in favor of annexation.”

 

Stan Cameron:  “I think it is a real problem.  I think that everybody would agree that it is a problem.  I think everyone would, pretty much say that we need to reduce the number of annexations.  I think the only way to do that is to make the uses between a county permitted use and a city permitted use is to make them more compatible.  Theirs is like night and day if you have a suggested agricultural use adjacent to a city.  It is just an absolute open invitation to annex.  I don’t think that is realistic.  I think the uses need to be more consistent and it needs to be a transition; in other words, high density down to medium density to low density and down to agricultural.  When you have an absolute cut off at the city limits where there is a higher density down to zero (10) to one (1) unit per acre, I just don’t think it is realistic.”

 

Dawn Davis:  “Can you keep the number of annexations at the level it is today due to not procedures on getting your use, but on the actual use?”

 

Stan Cameron:  “In the majority of cases, absolutely.”

 

Jack Elkins:  “Can I comment of that for one second?  Montgomery County Maryland, where this whole program of TDR’s was born and raised, and up there they stopped the annexations by buying the development rights on the farmlands adjacent to the cities.  I wouldn’t advocate that you would want to do that, but that was the technique that was used in Maryland.”

 

E. J. Thomas:  “Next member, please.”

 

Ken Smith:  “I am Ken Smith and I represent District II.  Overall, the problems that we have discussed during the Steering Committee meetings have been the problem of accuracy from the map, if you would.  Right now, there is a Planning Commission Map that is basically more up to date than this.  For example; you talk about scenic highways here on roads that are not scenic.  I understand that DOT and this administration has classifications that are given for maintenance purposes only, but this does not speak to of what is really there.  Population densities that are shown within the District II are not actualities of what they are.  As Stan pointed out, there are some problems with the statement of this is rural or agricultural, or this is commercial industrial; when in actuality it happens to be housing developments, country club developments, golf course developments.  I just think there needs to be, for something that will have to go to the Atlanta Regional Commission and come back, and lawyers and developers will come to you and say it is on the Planning Map this or that way.  I’ll have to echo my previous Steering Committee member’s comments, defer to commissioner Freedman, District II, for his comments, but to say that we need to have a base line map going forward.  That is something that we do not have right now.  I think there needs to be more address given to the annexation issue, because without that we can draw maps all day long and propose to the Atlanta Regional Commission what to do and that back to the Board; it is not going to change.  There has to be something in there, and I might add, that was one of the main issues that was discussed at every meeting.”

 

Sam Ahern:  “The Hospital Authority would like to thank the Planning Commission and the Commissioners for allowing us representation in the development of this plan.  We think that is a very important to us, and important to the County overall.  I would say that the greatest concerns that we have, I would echo a little bit of what jack Parrish said earlier in terms of accuracy of the population projections in the plan.  When the people come, they have got to be served for their healthcare needs.  I share the concern that Jack expressed that we are a little shy on some of our projections.  We have to have; to know how many folks we need to prepare to serve in order to serve them in an appropriate way.  I do appreciate that the plan recognizes the need for another hospital facility in the southern end of the County where so much growth is going to occur.  It also does recognize the need for some assisted living and other senior cervices; because every element, every piece of our population segment is growing so significantly.  We have got to look at not only accommodating our current growth plans and include women and children services, but the elderly as well.  We think there are elements in the plan that we can work around, but our caution is that we are a bit more realistic about those population projections.”

 

Al Hosford:  “Thank you, Sam.  I just kind of want kind of put out an example of what we have worked through last year, and just let you know this is included in or not included in this.  All of our Steering Committee members have been very diligent in trying to set forth the best plan possible.  My name is AL Hosford, and I had the pleasure of representing District III on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Steering Committee.  I will be honest; I am very concerned, because this is where I want to raise my family.  I have a twenty-three month old son, and Lord willing, we will be here to retirement age; so, I want to have an impact on how the County gets developed.  A couple of questions I have; I don’t know if I am able to have Ron respond; but a couple of questions: is this plan legal?  I think I saw Patrick Jaugstetter here, I don’t know if he is in with us, but does Patrick feel comfortable presenting this plan in court, representing the county with this plan in court?  Three things I saw specifically; are 20% open space set-aides legal?  I am not attorney, so I am not certain, if we can require people to set aside a portion of their property legally.  There was something related to requiring plumbing retrofits on new home sells.  To the best of my law, State Law supercedes County Law.  I am not certain on that, but last year in the legislature, that failed.  So, why are we going to have something in the plan that is illegal?  The third thing is; do you have to have, and echoing Kim’s comment, a parcel specific map; because I guarantee that know matter what this says, the date this comes back from the ARC, a landowner is going to come, and they don’t want to look at this, they want to know what does my property look like?  I understand this is the goals and policies, and is what we need to focus on.  Realistically, this is what people are going to look at no matter what we say.  There are some extreme discrepancies on this map.  As Stan pointed out; we have things that were rezoned, such as Eagle’s Brook and Heron Bay, that were rezoned back in the 90’s that have improper zoning classifications on this map.  That is a big concern because if we have glaring deficiencies on this map, do we feel comfortable that there are not glaring deficiencies in the plan?  That is just a question.  I think our Water and Sewerage Authority have done a fantastic job of getting us prepared for future growth.  I think you will see on here, we have some main sewer trunk lines; we have low density residential around the sewer trunk lines.  Why did we invest in that infrastructure?  Why did the Water and Sewerage Authority invest in that infrastructure knowing we were going to have low-density residential around the investment that we have made?  That is something that I think, and it is hard to tell on this map because we don’t have the main sewer trunk line on this map to tell; but that is something off of a previous map that we have seen.  I kind of have a joint roll because I work closely with the Chamber and I am a banker here in town; so I want to make sure that our business environment is the most competitive possible.  I want to make certain that we don’t continue to have an unbalanced tax base.  I think I read something where there was close to 70% of our tax base comes from residential use.  We can’t continue to be competitive in the environment; and it is going to be a further burden on the taxpayers of this county if we don’t balance the tax base.  I think the Economic Development Authority, run by Bob White, has done a great job in rewriting the Economic Development portion of this plan, but there are a couple of things that concern me.  We talked about, I think it is three different things; we talked about adding mills.  Are we going to continue to add mils on our taxpayers?   Our property taxes are already some of the highest in the area, the highest in the metro area; and we are talking about continuing to add mils to our taxpayers.  I think not only does that have an effect on the residential taxpayers; but more so on the industrial and commercial developers.  We already have impact fess, that are some of the highest and what are proposed are some of the highest in the area.  If we have the highest property taxes and the highest impact fees; if a developer has a project in Butts County, a piece of property he is looking at, a piece of property in Clayton County and them a piece of property in Henry County; all other things being equal; where do you think he is going to go?  I think it is a very clear decision then that if you are not competitive in the business environment where business decisions are going to be made.  The Plan, from the very start, has appeared to be a very generic plan, a canned plan.  There are some things related to Henry County, but there is so much duplication in this plan that it really is not even funny.  It is just a generic plan.  I think you could have gone to, and Mr. Elkins mentioned Maryland a number of times; you could have gone to Maryland and found something very similar to this plan.  I understand that you have to have a base plan to work off of, but I think the County has invested a large amount of money to make our plan something that we can live with, something that we are proud of.  This seems to be just very generic in content.  There are some discrepancies, echoing Dr. Parish and Sam, related to what is out population goal.  I think there are three different uses, anywhere from and I am going off of memory, somewhere around 200,000 up to 500,000.  I think we have got to determine where we want our population to be and then we can work back from that number.  I have heard jack mention a number of times; it is pretty easy if we have got 170,000 acres to develop, there are generally 2.5 people per home, and you are going to do two (2) acre minimums; it is pretty easy to determine if you are going to do all two (2) acres minimums then if you want to reach that population number, so we must decide where we want that population number to be and then work back from that.  As Stan mentioned, annexation; I think every Commissioner in here will say that the most frustrating thing about annexation is that you loose control.  You loose control over how that property is going to be developed.  I think Lisa Glover is going to do a great job on our Transportation Plan; but with that Transportation Plan I would think we would want to use our density around our transportation Infrastructure that is already set up.  You want to put more people where you have the most roads that are adequate to handle that population.  At Mike Fuerth has said, I would think you would want to cluster your density around those interchanges to move people.  That is one of the things I think most people have frustration with living in Henry County.  The first thing that always pops up is transportation.  I have enjoyed working on this committee.  It has taken a lot of time, but I think it is time well spent.  I just want the best possible place to raise a family and I think everybody on this committee has had the right heart about it.  It has been a lot of work.  I just hope that we come out.  There will be some things that we don’t agree with.  There have been times when we have had arguments within the Steering Committee where we don’t agree with each other; but the key is coming up with the best plan and we will be able to support it.  As this plan stands, I don’t think it is as good as we should have for a county that I want to raise my family in.”

 

Dawn Davis:  “May I ask a question?  Are you referring to the changes that we have made, or the initial plan?”

 

Al Hosford:  “I have seen some changes Dawn, and I will be honest, if you look at everything we have had to read through, and I will say the Planning Commission has done a wonderful job, because from what I have been told you have almost gone page by page and gone through.  What I had read; summarized again last night reading through; there are still some deficiencies or weaknesses I see in the plan, such as things that might not be legal.  If things aren’t legal, I would think it would be hard to enforce, and that is why I don’t know, but what Patrick being the County Attorney, can make that determination.  I think you have spent a lot of time also, probably much greater amounts of time than we have; but I still think there are deficiencies in the plan as presented tonight.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “Don you have specific areas that you can delineate and give to HDR and Planning Staff, that you think should be less general.”

 

Al Hosford:  “If we had a map that wasn’t so general, I do.  This is an extremely general map, and it is almost like drawing circles around what you, and one thing we asked; will you all please speak up; we asked probably in March, April, May of this year; for a map that delineated the City boundaries, because why are we concerned about things we have no control over.  We never were provided a map showing where the cities were.  I don’t want to spend my time on something that really you have no control over, Mr. Freedman.”

Commissioner Freedman:  “I am just saying it is beyond the map and I think we are probably going to find pretty strong agreement that the map is basically outdated; but beyond that, I made a list of areas I wanted to discuss tonight.  I just wondered if you had, because you have good ideas and obviously you have read this.  I think we need to take what your issues are and document them so we can address them.”

 

Al Hosford:  “I will be glad to put something together.  I think it, I will say we have pout a lot of things together, I think over the last; I think we started this, was it May of 2003?  Gary, you may no better.  I think it was May of 2003.  We spent a lot of time on this and we came up with ideas and they have fallen on death ears, we fill, at times.  So, I don’t want to go through the process again if it is not going to be truly considered.  I’ll just be honest, and that is not a knock on Ron, because Ron and I have not seen eye-to-eye on a lot of things, and I think he and I agree on that; but I will be glad to do that if it will be considered.  I fully understand and acknowledge that it will be considered by the Board of Commissioners; because no matter what the Planning Commission says, no matter what the Steering Committee says, the power rest with you r group, you six (6) commissioners.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “I think we would like to see your comments.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “I would like to see those as well, and on behalf of the Planning Commission, we are hoping to make some type of recommendation on Thursday; so, if we could have any information from you all or the Board of Commissioners by the early part of next week, Monday or so, we would definitely like to take all of that into consideration prior to Thursday.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “My name is Keith Seiler.  I am the Henry County Chamber of Commerce representative on the Steering Committee.  I also own a business in Stockbridge, and employ twenty-two (22) employees here in the county.  I, too, have been involved from the very beginning in October of last year.  I am continually amazed.  We have such a diverse group of representatives here; from the farm bureau to Jack and his interest; to District appointees; to, in my case, representing the Chamber of Commerce and the business community; and yet, remarkably, we agree most of the time.  While it is true, as Al said, we have had some differences on minor, specific points, we have identified a lot of the same problems and issues with the Comprehensive Plan; both in the May 3rd draft and the October 28th draft.  I was listening to Al’s description, and he kept talking about he doesn’t want the taxpayer to pay for meals.  I kept trying to think about what he was talking about.  I was a little slow and the hour is late, but finally I realized that he was referring to mils.  It just goes to show that communication is essential in these matters.  Thank you.  I will try to be correct and articulate that in my report.  By the way, I do have copies of my report.  It is a four-page report, but I am going to go through it quickly and hit a couple of points.  Many of you may have seen the letter that I published in the Visions Newsletter of the Chamber of Commerce.  Back at that time we did identify some pretty specific concerns with regard to the content of the Comprehensive Plan.  I have spent the last day and a half going back through the latest draft.  Unfortunately, many of those policies and proposed regulations are still in place.  I do acknowledge the Planning Commission has eliminated some of the provisions and has softened the language is a lot of the Goals and Policies objectives; however, in my opinion, the focus, methodology and ideology is really largely in tact.  Let me also recognize some improvements to the Comprehensive Plan.  Ron, in case you feel like this is a beat down session; there are some definite improvements in the plan and I want to recognize you and others for that; specifically the Economic Development component is very good now.  I understand that you worked very closely with the Economic Development Group.  It speaks the language of business and economic development, and it is good work.  Secondly, the narrative on education and workforce development, specifically secondary education, job training, and so forth, as it relates to work force development and that critical issue of importance to the business community, it is very well written in the plan.  Also, that plan attempts to incorporate certain private sector incentives, and I think that is a positive step and I would encourage a furthering of trying to insimulize the behavior and conduct that you want from the business and development community as opposed to mandates and regulatory fees.  Specifically, some of the historical and archeological resource preservation incentives that were mentioned, I think, were certainly a step in the right direction.  The first category that I will call is new government and restrictions.  Let me just quickly read through those: anew Stormwater Management ordinance; a new floodplain management ordinance; new conservation subdivision and open space development ordinance; new elicit discharge and illegal connections ordinance; new litter control ordinance; new stream buffer protection ordinance; regulating and monitoring of business and industries that handle hazardous wastes or discharge pollutants; imposing Safe Dam Act standards throughout the County, that is something that I may have misinterpreted; but again, like so much of the goals and policies, there is a lot of ambiguity in the language, and words matter.  There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the language.  I can’t tell if they are going after Jack’s swan pond or if we are talking about new category one dams.  There is a great concern because if you were to unilaterally impose those standards across all the existing ponds in the county; that is a tremendous burden on the landowners in this county.  Creation of a Comprehensive Green Infrastructure Plan; mandatory 20% open space set-a-sides; demolition permits; historical preservation districts; plumbing retrofit on home resells; develop additional signage ordinance and regulation; permit limitations with uncertain triggers, I will talk more about that in a minute; carrying capacity limitation.  Another category, which I have characterize as increasing the size, bureaucracy and cost of the County Government, and cost is a great concern, is; creating a Green Infrastructure Sub-Committee; additional staff to coordinate volunteer watershed stewardship programs; additional county staff for historical and archeological resource inventory and protection; hiring a County Arborist, which we have already touched upon; impose Planning Staff levels of one staff member per 5000 – 10000 residents, I just ran the math on my abacus and came up with 28 to 62 new planning staff positions by 2025, depending on the population projections that you use.  The other one, and this is my characterization, is the Environmental Activists’ agenda and Social Engineering component.  I have looked all through the Visual Preference workshops and all the narrative; it may have been just me, but I didn’t hear the citizens calling for radical environmental regulations.  I heard, really, just a couple of things with regarding growth.  I heard traffic.  About three to one (3-1) residents in Henry County say traffic is the biggest problem.  Transportation is far and again the biggest problem.  Again, my characterization, but here are some of the regs, and it is what it is, Expand buffers adjacent to jurisdictional wetlands far in excess of any other metro County requirements, there is a term adjacent wetlands, and again ambiguity in the regs, but it appears to be something above what the State and Federal Government recognizes as jurisdictional wetlands, so I am a little confused about what adjacent wetlands are.  Restrictions on development around rock outcroppings; well, I understand, but the rock is also a natural restriction in the construction community, but there are a couple of endangered plant species, fungi, and so-forth, that grow in small pools of some rock outcroppings; so that is fine.  New restriction on land disturbance where existing slopes exceed 30%; that has been changed.  I thank you for that.  I think it was on the order of 10% at one point, which was about the slope of a handi-cap access ramp.  It is now 30%, which is a 3 1/3:1 slope.   I understand on one level that, but for example, look outside this building; look at the tie end slopes, the natural ground.  This is a rather steep site.  It has got tiered parking areas and it required a lot of grading to build this site.  I would suggest to you that you could not have built this fine, County Administration facility with these regulations.  Provide coordinated environmental education programs for all age groups utilizing public and private resources, I suspect the schools are doing that now.  Create and Arts Council and associated facilities funded by a dedicated mil.  I guess there is an ideological debate, but this is not the time and place for it, but again, it gets down to the cost.  Government can do anything for us that we agree it should do as far as the roll of government; but how are we going to pay for it.  I don’t think we have had a meaningful, quantitative discussion about the cost of these proposals and initiatives.  Proposed tax increases on the business community and the citizenry.  The wording has been changed but dedicated funding source (e.g. development impact fees) for a stormwater management plan.  By the way; the goals that we are planning, dedicated funding source; I am sorry, that is a code word for taxes.  The County doesn’t have the money; so, they are going to get it from either tax increases, regulatory fee increases, or the growth community.  It is real clear what we are talking about.  Proposed private sector bonding of stormwater management facilities; proposed bond referendum or SPLOST or similar, to implement green infrastructure network; proposed funding for historic and archeological resource protection; proposed dedicated mil for cultural programs and facilities; proposed 1% for the arts program, those two may be the same, I cant’ tell, but they are referenced in different sections.  Again, a discussion on what is the proper and desired roll and function of government?  The Land Use Map; and there has been some discussion about that; I think, mostly, at this point the areas of concern are in Districts I and II.  We have read the District I  Steering Committee’s representative into the record.  We are of the opinion that certainly, at the very least, the Plan will cause continuing city annexations based on free market forces; specifically if you look at districts I and II.  Low-density residential sprawl; I understand the thinking, but I think we have unintentionally created the opposite of our desire as a result in some cases.  AS defined in the plan, it is like no other conservation subdivision in the thirteen county metro area.  Conservation subdivision, right now in our plan, is estate lots.  If that is what we want, the okay, the majority decides; but we need to be candid about what we are talking about.  This is low-density residential sprawl.  It is going to increase natural resource consumption.  It is going to increase traffic.  It is going to lower our air and stormwater quality.  There was a blurb mentioned in Mr. Fuerth’s letter about some of the studies there.  There are a lot of different definitions of quality of life.  I know if we asked everybody in this room what is quality of life we would probably get a different definition; but, one of the things I know that quality of life is, is walkability.  We looked at some of the LCI initiatives; we saw a lot of that material; the visual preference surveys; again, where did we see walkability?  One of the things that you need to have walkability is you have to have density, and it is simply not there in the estate lots in the subdivisions.  Escalating tax bases; that is one of the predictable results of low =density sprawl and reduced availability, and this is a particular concern for the Henry County Chamber of Commerce; reduced availability of affordable housing for our middle class workforce.  Are these folks going to be able to afford to live when the lower third of the County is estate lots?  Where are the policemen, the firemen, the small business people, the accountants, where are they going to live?  I would suggest to you that with the land prices the way they are going in Henry County that economically one-acre lots are not going to be affordable to a large segment of our population.  In summary, I want to say that the Henry County Chamber of Commerce is absolutely supportive of the effort of the Comprehensive Plan; but we are concerned about the impact, we are concerned about the cost, we are also concerned about he decreased competitiveness for new business recruiting.  We have Economic Development representatives here.  When you start looking at the totality of regulatory fees and restrictions and impacts; we believe that it decreases our competitiveness not only for new business recruiting, but also existing business retention; and this is partly because of a lack of uniform, consistent, and predictable regulations.  I want to speak to that, because the carrying capacity and permit limitations; the first time we saw that in March of this year, this Steering Committee uniformly said ‘this is a deal breaker for the business community’.  There are very uncertain triggers.  You cannot understand what it is.  It looks like to use that any number of things could crop up and become a criterion for rejection of a specific project when it would otherwise meet the Land Use Plan.  What are the triggers?  For business, the worst fear is uncertainty.  I think any businessperson will tell you, that if we know what the rules are, then we can live with plan, we can program fro that, we can calculate our cost.  The problem with this plan is that it is entirely too ambiguous, it is entirely too uncertain.  It is not predictable.  We think it is going to perpetuate our current system of politicized stipulated zonings.  When the lower third of the County is estate lots; what is going to be the likely result?  A complete perpetuation of the politicized stipulation zoning system.  What the entire community is crying out for is a plan that we can all live with and follow.  I have heard that time and time again, “Let’s adopt a comprehensive Plan and by golly let’s follow it.”  The business community agrees that this is not that plan.  It is also going to create another unintended result, and that is that we believe it is going to accelerate annexations. When you have disparate zonings between the cities and the County, as identified in Locust Grove on the current map; we know what the free market is going to do.  They are going to move towards the more favorable zoning.  In District I we have identified that as a clear problem.  Transportation has been a pointed discussion, and I realize that the County is contracting to have a separate Transportation Plan, and I certainly commend you for that; but we believe the cart has been put a little bit before the horse here.  Chief engineer of the DOT, Paul Mullins; when his group visited us this summer, one of points that he made, and I am paraphrasing, is doing transportation planning before land use planning is a waste of time and vise versa.  That is what we have done.  I don’t believe we have done a good enough job of following the sewer and water infrastructure, both existing and proposed, and doing the planning accordingly.  The Chamber of Commerce just finished their annual retreat.  The two biggest issues that came out of that retreat were transportation and intergovernmental cooperation, the two biggest issues.  The tow shortest chapters in this Comprehensive Plan are the Transportation and Intergovernmental Cooperation.”

 

Gerry Adams:  “Are you saying that there is no place for estate lots?”

Keith Seiler:  “I am categorizing the conservation subdivision theory as estate lots.  It is a low-density scenario.”

 

Gerry Adams:  “If not this area, then where?  I am of the opinion there is a place for high-density and there is a place for farms.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “I agree.  I don’t think that plan represents the right bounds.”

 

Gerry Adams:  “Well, I agree with you there.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “I am not suggesting that conservation subdivisions should be eliminated by any means.  I am saying that this plan is not balanced; and most importantly to use, it keeps the County vulnerable to annexations.  This is a big issue for use.  From the very beginning, when this Steering Committee met, the first of March, the first time we looked at the plan; we said; ‘ where are the city boundaries, where are the zonings around those cities?’  We have not been able to get overlays that allow us to comprehend.”

 

Gerry Adams:  “If you had the overlays, they would have changed by tomorrow because they would have annexed another parcel.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “That may be, but it didn’t meant that we shouldn’t make the effort.  That is a huge issue and we ought to e trying to establish buffers that make the free market less likely to try and annex.  I happen to believe the County is a great place to do business.  I don’t want to see the County vulnerable to excessive annexations.”

 

Commission Holder:  “Mr. Chairman, if I could?  Mr. Seiler, this has been a great presentation; but addressing one of the concerns that you have, and I have several that when the Commissioners’ time comes I will discuss; but back to annexation; that seems to be a focal point for intergovernmental corporation.  As you all know, we are dealing with House Bill 489 at present.  We currently are without an agreement simply because we have not been able to agree.  I had a meeting with McDonough’s Mayor, and attorney, and Mr. Jaugstetter a couple of weeks ago.  One of my concerns, you can put all of the issues that are involved in 489 together, but between the Board of Commissioners and the Cities, the real sticking point is annexations, because it is undefined.  Nobody knows where it is today and where it is going to end.  My question to the Mayor of McDonough, ‘show me where you want to go, define the boundary?’  I think there needs to be a buffer between city and county, where it make no difference.  Once the boundary is defined it makes no difference whether it is in the County or the City, the same zoning, the same densities will be the same.  He gave me that to me within a couple of days.  They had already defined it.  It is my understanding that the other three cities have done that also; so, hopefully we will be working toward what you are saying.  Once we can say that in twenty years, and this is a twenty-year plan, we can McDonough is going to here, Locust Grove is going to here; Stockbridge, Hampton; then the county can plan for it.  The Cities can plan for it; but I think you are exactly right, it has to be defined.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “It is defined as an objective in the plan, but the point is that now is the time with the Land Use Plan because it is a worthy effort and the ramifications of doing nothing; I mean, we can’t just throw in the towel.  We need to try and match similar zonings, and I will just conclude that a wise commissioner told me and these words stick, and it has probably been six or seven months ago, but he said: ‘at some point when it is all said and done, when this Committee get done with their work, and the Planning Commission get done with their work, the Board of Commissioners, it is you guys and you are going to have to sit down, somebody is going to have to sit, and I think the word was you guys are going to have to put their rears in a chair and go through this document, because there are problems.  I have tried to be very specific.  I think the questions before me was there was some generalizations which I agree with, but the reason I read those regulations to you was I tried to be very specific and in my report it sites the exact page and section because they are there; it is not subject for debate or dispute.  That is in there, and if you approve the plan you essentially have an unfounded mandate on ourselves, on the citizens of this County of how are we going to pay for it.  The cost is, and by the way I do respectfully disagree, when you go through the Short Term Work Program of works, I think the cost is terribly unreported.  You need to also add up the indirect and the direct cost of your labor to monitor it, the staff cost of the existing staff.  You are talking about a tremendous amount of regulatory oversight that would now be required by your existing staff; and whether you acknowledge that you are actually going to hire another position, presumably you r staff is not siting around idle, they are fully utilized.  I am sure that is true.  Right, Mr. Ross?  You guys are fully utilized.  He is here at 8:00 at night.  The poor guy is fully utilized.  That is a cost.  You are going to have to hire a lot of people to administer this plan.”

 

E. J. Thomas:  “Thank you.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “Mr. Chairman, may I say one thing quickly about that?  Annexations is one of the things on my list to discuss, and that item has come up several times.  The cities don’t go out an annex.  They are asked to annex by the developer usually; so, let’s find out where that burden is.  It is not because the city goes out and says they want that land.  Somebody goes to them and says they have a reason to annex.  What we have to examine is why the reason for annexation is taking place.  Are we as a County creating barriers and stumbling blocks and obstacle to where they want to annex into the cities?  That is the issue.  That is the thing that we have to look at and not blame the cities for annexation.  We need to look in our own house and see where we need to get some direction.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “But realistically, what Commissioner Holder just said is they have already have got a map that is showing where they want to be.  You can’t convince me that if they have an idea of where they want to be that they are not having contact with those land owners about where they would like to be.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “Those landowners wouldn’t annex in if they didn’t have reason.”

 

Keith Seiler:  “I agree wholeheartedly. That would make this plan much easier, because I agree with Commissioner Adams 100%, there needs to be a balance.  I think there is a place fore estate size lots.  I don’t want density all over the county.  We would never be able to move if we had density all over the County, but there needs to be a balance, and there can only be a balance when we know what the cities are going to do.”

Chairman Schafer:  “In the interest of time, we need to move on to the next speaker.”

 

Chris Marsengill:  “Good evening.  I have the privilege of representing District V.  Let me start with, what is left to say?   These guys have done a great job of covering the issues and keeping up with all the different reviews that have come as part of this process.  On behalf of these guys, I would like to thank you all for this quorum tonight.  We were concerned at one point that our final opinions or comments would not be heard in this type of forum, but again, thank you for that.  I guess the one thing I want to hit on again, as I said previously, the have covered most of the issues here; but the last thing I want to hit on is transportation.  That is something that we heard in every public information session and that we all know is one of the biggest issues in our County.  I will try to cover that within the next hour.  Early in this process, the plan did not accurately depict the ongoing plan for transportation projects that we have in the County.  I really consider those to be building blocks.  These are things that are in the plan, in the pike and coming.  Why not go ahead an include those in this Comprehensive Plan and plan the areas around those improvements accurately.  In this latest addition, it appears that the consultant has done a good job of going back and correcting that.  A lot of those new and upcoming project shave been included; however, I expected that we would do a better job of planning development around those facilities.  Transportation facilities, as we all know, are major capital outlays; and I think we should do a better job of protecting those corridors and preserving the longevity and efficiency of those projects.”

 

E. J. Thomas:  “That concludes the presentation from the Steering Committee.  I want to thank the Planning Commission and County Commissioners for allowing us the privilege of doing what we did tonight.  I can’t think of a better team that you could have picked to work as the Steering Committee.  We had no contention, no pretense, or anything.  They just sat down and did their work.  The way the did their dissertations; so to speak, I had nothing else to do except call the meeting and get it approved.  I am so proud of all of us and I want to thank all of you.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Thank you all very much.  As I said before, if you have any specific comments you would like to make or put in writing; if you could get those to the Planning Commission, let’s say Monday of next week.  That would give us time to review them prior to public comment Wednesday night, and ideally, a recommendation on Thursday night to send it forward to the Board of Commissioners.  At this time, following the agenda, we will shortly break for about five (5) minutes and reconvene at 8:00.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “We will now reconvene.  We have heard only the comments form the Steering Committee members.  We thank you for those.  It is now time to move on to comments form the Board of Commissioners.  We are going to go around starting with District I, then District II, II, IV and V.  In the interest of time I am going to limit comment from each of the Commissioners to five (5) minutes so we can stay on track with tonight’s agenda.  We will begin with District I, Warren Holder.”

 

Commissioner Warren Holder:  “First of all I want to say this has been very helpful.  There have been some comments that have opened my eyes, and there are some comments that I want to make that I hope will fall on some ears that are listening, too.  First of all, the comment was made that ultimately this Board of Commissioners will make that decision.  From a Commissioners perspective, and I am speaking for myself only, the first thing that we have to consider with this plan, as we do in any zoning issue, or any issue that comes before the Board; is it legally defensible?  If it is not legally defensible, then we don’t have anything to base our decision on.  If it passes and it says it is legally defensible, then it becomes a political issue; like it or don’t like; folks, that is just the way it is.  Back to the plan, itself; I wish we had it on the screen as far as the map is concerned.  In Mike Fuerth’s letter, he referred to a change in the map.  He said that he was told that the change was due to the ‘Watershed’.  If somebody hasn’t picked up by May the 3rd that the majority of District I in the Watershed, then somebody is asleep or hasn’t gotten out of his office and driven through District I to see where the Watershed is.  The Watershed has been studied.  It is clearly defined.  But when you see the map and it says conservation subdivision or conservation residential or whatever they call it; it is not indicative of the studied Watershed area in this County.  There are property right s that go along with it, and I am here to try and protect the citizens of my whole District.  We need to do a better job of defining Conservation Subdivision.  A Conservation Subdivision, and I have been trying to do this for years because I represent the Watershed District; Conservation does not mean less density or more density.  It means that you are able to put the same number of unit per acre on 3/4s of an acre and leave the buffer along the streams to protect the Watershed.  What is the Watershed Protection Ordinance for?  It is to protect the Watershed.  This way the density can remain the same; that is one unit per acre.  Annexations, how much time have I got?”

 

Scott McCarter:  “Three minutes.”

 

Commissioner Holder:  “Annexation is definitely a problem.  Is the County or City at fault?  Both are at fault.  We, as a County, in the past have been our own worst enemy.  I have made this statement publicly many times.  We have Staff that are hard to deal with.  They don’t realize who is the boss in the County, and boss being the people who pay their salaries.  Not this Board of Commissioners, but the people that they deal with daily.  We have Staff that do not treat people the way you want to be treated.  I have purposefully called the offices, identified myself and it is fine; called back and don’t identify myself and I am talked to like you don’t want to be talked to.  You can pick the department that happens to be one.  This Plan needs a lot of tweaking.  I have to agree with what my appointee said, and he said that he could not support it at this time.  Again, it has to be legally defensible, because the worst thing that could happen for use would be to quickly adopt the Plan that is not to the point that we need it and defend it when we walk into that room, have a zoning hearing, and have to amend the plan, that is once adopted, because we can’t defend a density issue or a zoning issue, will be the worst thing that could happen to the Board of Commissioners.  We have all been there and we know what it means.  It is not a good sight.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Thank you, sir.  District II, Mr. Freedman.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “I plan to go fast and I plan to be specific enough that you can flip through the book and stay with me; so let’s start with GOP page 8.  I will read the section so that you can mark them.  Policy 1.7, f-1 says: ‘Classify streams based on the volume of water and develop buffer standards based’.  I think that there is probably a State standard on that.  If there is a State policy, then we need to note it and make sure that we are adhering to the State policy.  Some people have said are we just creating the requirements or are they mandated policy?  A lot of times they are, and if they are then we should be referring to them.  The next one, GOP page 8, about open space down in paragraph h-1, again this is GOP in the new section.  Twenty percent (20%) set-a-side, it is good to set establish requirements for set-a side, but I think we need to talk about trade offs.  I few expect somebody to set-a-side green space, to set-a-side land, then there is going to have to be a trade off.  I have been doing this for six (6) years.  We created a conservation subdivision, and that is if developer is willing, if he has enough acreage to develop 100 homes on half-acre lots, but he is willing to se-a-side half of that; then let him develop that same number of lots on quarter acre lots.  You haven’t increased the number of homes.  You haven’t increased the impact of vehicles and people; but you have saved greenspace.  I can tell you, we have saved sixty-seven acres at Highways 3 and 81, doing exactly that.  The guy left the trees, a massive amount of trees; he created a natural area for walking and greenspace.  People in the area liked it.  They gave them their buffer, but it didn’t increase the number of houses in there.  If you go in, the lots are smaller.  If we are going to get greenspace, and ask that developer to give greenspace.  We need to create a policy.  If we don’t do that, we are no going to be successful at doing that.  Next, page 5-4, again, this is in the new part of the new chapter five.  We have got a list of County roads in there and the road I am referencing is Mt. Carmel.  I think it is true that Mt. Carmel is a county road, but if you go to page 5-8, which is four more pages than that, it refers to Mt. Carmel as being a minor collector; so, we have some dichotomies in there.  On the map, it shows it a major arterial, which it is definitely not.  I would ask you to take a real close look at how we have classified roads, get with Lisa Glover.  I will give her some data on this; but we have some other ones that have that same type of problem or they are over classified.  Mt. Carmel is a key example.  It is definitely not a major arterial road.  At the very, very most, I think a county road is a good classification fro it.  If you go back a little bit on this, go to page 1-31, in the new section again, never mind that.  I must have had that in the old section.  The issue is recycling.  I may have lost the exact reference on that; but recycling is extremely important.  I think that we need to be stronger on that.  I don’t know that we can make a mandatory recycling program, but I think it is something that we have to look at and save our environment. If we are going to save from having landfills all around the country, then we are going to have to do something.  Next one, under the Short Term Work Program, page 9-1-3, I guess it is hard to find 9-1-3.  It says in the second line there, ‘Seek Certified Local Government Status’.  I don’t have a glue what that means.  I want go into that right now, but I don’t know, at the County level what that means to seek that status, but I know I would certainly like to know what it means, and what we have to do to make that happen.  9-1-6, 1.1 f, “Prohibit construction, including parking lots, in the 100 year floodplain.’  I don’t know if we have identified the 100-year floodplain, but there are certain things that the State and the Corp of Engineers allow to be done in the floodplains.  We shouldn’t be creating policy that is contrary to the Corp of Engineers say that people can do.  I have people come to me all the time that say, we can do this in the flood plain but we can’t do this.  If we are just going to have a prohibition, we might be violating the standards created by a greater entity, i.e. the Corp of Engineers.  We need to take a close look at that.  9-1-7h, ‘Offer development incentives such as density bonuses.’  I would really like to see what that means, and that may be what I was just talking about, a density bonus is if you leave greenspace you can have a higher density; you don’t increase the number of homes that you have in that area, but I think that is something we need to look at.  Page 9-III-1, it says, ‘Create an architectural review board.’  Somebody mentioned that and I think we have to take a real close look at that.  We have to make sure we are not creating something that is erroneous, that all it does is create problems for people.  It might be a good idea to have something like that, but when it is spelled out we really need to look at if that is necessary or not.  Page 10-VIII-1, it is way back.”

 

Dawn Davis:  “Ten is the old section, Gary.”

 

Commissioner Freedman:  “There are a bunch of thing is there, and I think on of the key things in 8.1 it says: ‘Strengthen relationships between County Government and individual City Governments.’  That is probably one of the best comments we could find in there.  If we look at the map, and this Plan is more than just the map, this Plan is the map and all the appendixes and all the chapters and the tabs and everything else.  If we look at everything we have in there, I don’t see anything where the Cities had any participation in this.  We have a generic map that doesn’t show what the cities want to do, and at some point along the line when we create this plan, it should be a plan that incorporates the plans of the cities.  We are like the guys that jumped on the horse and rode off in all directions.  There is no coordination.  I think before we submit anything up to a higher level, or before it even comes to us for finalization, we ought to have some cities views on this thing.  Cities are part of the County.  They are not separate entities, and that may be part of the problem we have had all along, just like Stormwater Management.  We didn’t quiet make it with the cities.  This needs to be a coordinated, cooperative program that we have put together; not just with the cities, but with all the entities that are out there.  We need to define the Conservation Subdivision and if that is going to be defined with set-a-sides in it.  Al Hosford talked about property taxes being so high. The last election addressed that.  The people overwhelming supported that we are going to sustain those taxes at a level so that taxes don’t go up, so I think we have addressed that already.  We need to listen to a bunch of people.  We need to listen to the Chamber of Commerce, the business community, the educators, the Quality Growth people, the citizens.  I don’t think we have everybody’s input in here.  We heard some of that tonight.  This should be an ongoing cooperative planning and it has got to be balanced for it to be acceptable.  Coordinated, cooperative, and balanced; if it is not that, we don’t have all the input, we are rushing to disaster, and I don’t think we should.  I think timeliness is not the key here.  Doing it right is the key.  AS far as I am concerned, personally, I would rather see us do it right than do it fast.  If that does not meet the deadline you have established, so be it; but let’s get right.  Let’s get it right before it comes to the Commissioners and certainly get it right before we send it up beyond the County.  Thank you.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “District V, Mr. Holman.”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “Thank you.  I though I was going to be last and be able to prepare more.  I heard a comment, a word use here, and Mr. Freedman just alluded to it, Mr. Seiler alluded to it; words matter.  The language of this document matters, the tome matters.  I would like to see us articulate what this plan is in a better way.  I have asked Staff today, and they have responded very quickly, I have definitions in front of me and I was quiet surprised.  The Comprehensive Plan means any plan by the County or Municipalities covered such County and so forth.  The words in these definitions are: you would think that we are the Commissioners, and a Commissioner is a commissioner of community affairs.  Board is the board of community affairs.  Somebody made mention that our Comprehensive Plan is a copy of somebody else’s.  It is really not.  I have here a copy of somebody else’s.  It is really not.  I have here a sixty-page table of content, the rules of community affairs, and it list all these elements that Mr. Huffman mention, the eight elements.  What I found interesting is that some of us have been talking about the need of a map.  They had a definition here; Existing Land Use Map, the existing Land Use Map must be of sufficient scale and accuracy to provide a clear understanding of the general distribution of land uses and their special relationships to one another.  I am not sure what this one really is, but I am going to call it the Future Land Use Map, so to say a projection of future land use needs.  A projection of the Future Land Use needs by land use category must include an analysis of the amount of land needed to accommodate the projected population and economic growth of the community and the continuing need for projection of natural and cultural resources including the estimated gross acreage needed for each standard category as follows, and they give a list.  I have asked Staff to produce the Land Use Map that we are currently operating on along with the map.  When I asked that Staff, or somebody stated, it was adopted August 1993.  I don’t know if the Short Term Work Programs were listed in here, but I would like to see what was with this as a Short Term Work Program and I would like to see 1993, with one of those, which one we are doing.  I would like to see what we have done in the past so I can see what we are going to do in the future.  I know that we mentioned Stormwater Management in this.  That, too, is going to be something that the Board of Commissioners is going to have to deal with before we send it to DCA.  Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks.”

 

Chairman Schafer: “Thank you, sir.  District IV, Mr. Adams.”

 

Commissioner Adams:  “Just let me say, I told Sam and Stan just a minute ago; this is a lot like trying to drink from a fire hose.  It is a lot of stuff and it is hard to get a drink of water.  It is not in me to criticize.  You guys have worked long and hard.  I hate to criticize.  You put a lot of hours into this.  It is going to be kind of hard for me to accept this the way it is.  I am not sure that; I noticed on this map for instance, I notice that all the parts are not really where they are; for instance, North Mt Carmel Park, it is not on South Mt. Carmel Road.  Heritage Park in not past Pullin Road it is more toward Lake Dow.  Mosely Park is off at the end of 155, not 138.  I want the information to be there.  Jonesboro Road comes from the square in McDonough and abruptly stops at I-75.  Everybody knows that the road doesn’t end at I-75, that is where a lot of commercial stuff is going on right now.  We do hear a lot about transportation.  Transportation resonates with voters.  Everybody in this room has been stuck in a traffic jam and more than once.  Another thing that resonates with voters, and I a lot of folks that I go to church with, and my neighbors ask whenever I go to the grocery store, why do you continue growth?  Well, you cant’ stop it is the answer to that.  I guess what I am saying, is what I said a while ago, there is a place for estate lots; there is a place for farmlands.  There is a place for high-density, no question about it.  We just have got to find the key to accommodate all of that and also kind of keep the cities from gobbling us all up before we are just four cities, if we don’t find that key.  I am not smart enough to figure all that out, I will just be honest with you, I don’t know what to do to stop that.  I was hoping HDR did, but in any case I appreciate all the time that you guys have spent.  Mike has told me of all the work you have done.  You have gone almost line-by-line, and that is more than I have done.  I appreciate it.  That pretty much concludes what I had to say.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Next, District II, Jason Harper.”

 

Jason Harper:  “I just want to say a few things.  First off, I agree with Keith, and Warren, and Mr. Freedman; that conservation subdivision; I am not land use expert; but a conservation subdivision means that you are leaving land undisturbed, not disturbing the entire tract for bigger lots.  I have not heard a Conservation subdivision defined any other way until tonight.  I think we need to reclassify that.  You three say the same thing.  Another issue I want to talk about is density.  I agree with you to some extent, you obviously want density on the sewer lines.  That is a better use of our resources.  The only problem or caveat I want to put with that is, that when the Water Authority runs lines in places you didn’t expect it to, you can’t allow the Water Authority to guide growth issues.  That is the only caveat you have to put with that.  Otherwise I am in agreement with that.  Density around the cities; I asked Al Hosford to serve on this committee and I appreciate his serving on this committee.  The cities have set forth, as one said, where they want to grow.  They want that land.  They may not go out everyday knocking on somebody’s door asking for it; but they have already identified in their minds where they want to grow.  They get fees from that in order to grow.  That is why they want that; especially the commercial growth.  I take a different tact.  This map, whether we like density or not; the County thought maintaining good relations with the cities, and we have to acknowledge, they are trying to take jurisdictions from us by creating larger cities.  We need to defend that turf by surrounding every one of these four cities with higher-density.  We need to create a perimeter and that is the battleground, either they are going to get it or we are going to keep it.  The only way we are going to do that is to modify this map.  A city should not border 0-1 units per acre, unless there is a Watershed right there that is so critical that we can’t up the density.  Zero to two (0-2) acres is still too little.  We are competing with apartment complexes and we are competing with town-home developments.  Developers are going to go to the cities if we don’t redo this map; there fore, I do believe we need to increase the densities around the cities.  The second thing is, we have to provide the citizens and developers a good service.  I disagree with Warren a little bit.  I know what he is intending, but not all of our employees are bad.  You find a few bad apples in every pot, obviously; but I think when an employee doesn’t give the developer or citizen what they want, most of the time is comes from this Board or somebody higher up has created the mentality that we need to be obstructive.  We need to lift that veil because we do have some good employees.  We just need to set them to work to compete with the cities and I think that is something we need to do.  The last thing I want to say is, you have done a good job.  Now, I think it is up to us to take it further after your final meeting; but I am going to go with my fellow members of the Board and to say that I do not think that we should forward this on yet.  If the Planning Commission is not satisfied, don’t pass a resolution putting it forward just to push this onward.  Stop, and go back a step; if you are satisfied, go ahead and pass it and then it will e up to us to stall the process; but I think you don’t need to rush this.  You have spent a lot of time on this.  It hasn’t been rushed yet.  We have been on this thing for over a year.  So, let’s us do it right.  Let’s not make a drop-dead deadline. That is all that I have, Mr. Chairman.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “And lastly, Chairman Maddox.”

 

Chairman Maddox:  “Well, I want to say thank you to the Steering Committee, because some of the comments that they made over there, I can assure you all, you have done more work on this than the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners has.  I can’t speak for the others; but I can tell you that I feel behind on it.  I would like to thank the Planning Department for the efforts and the time that they put into it.  I would also like to thank E. J. Thomas for chairing the Steering Committee.  Outside of that, I have about four questions I want to ask.  Then you all are going to know where I stand when I ask them.  Somebody over there mentioned quality of life.  I am sure quality of life to me means something a lot different that it does for somebody else.  The quality of life to me is not living next door to a house where I can reach out to door and touch it.  Quality of life to me is going out and stretching my arms out.  Somebody mentioned that Henry County was probably one of the highest metro counties in taxes. Why? Do we have more residential building going on that we do commercial?  Transportation was mentioned.  I don’t know that we have maybe one or two streets in Henry County that can handle high-density as we are talking about it today.  The other thing is that I haven’t heard a whole lot of people talk about is, what about our water supply?  Back about this time last year, we went to a meeting over at the Water Authority with the North Georgia Water Planning Commission.  They said in 2025, maximum, 2030, our water source is gone; yet we are talking about high-density.  To me if we have less density, we use less water; so I think you all know exactly where I stand.”

 

Chairman Schafer: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “Mr. Chairman, I apologize, but I tell you I often just get right to the point and I don’t think people that really deserve the thanking.  I want to thank HDR for all of their work.  I attended many of the community meetings.  I know that staff has worked hard.  I know the P & Z members have worked hard and they have kept me up a lot of nights where even Mr. Freedman said I was tired.  I thank the Steering Committee.   I know they have worked hard.  There are many citizens in this room, too, that have attended these meetings and are sitting here in this room today, and I thank them for their input.  Thank you.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Thank you, sir.  I would like to say on behalf of the Planning Commission, we sincerely appreciate all of your comments tonight.  We will definitely take those into consideration.  Again, if any of you have specific concerns that you haven’t addressed tonight, or that you would lie to formally put into writing; if we could have those by Monday of next week, that would be very helpful.  Also, I would like to ask our record keeper, if at all possible, if could have the minutes of tonight’s meeting by Monday as well. Is there anything the Planning Staff wants to add before we adjourn?”

 

Bill McLeer:  “I just want to ask Chairman Maddox, if he would, his comment on population; where do you think the County should go?  There are three numbers in our calculations and map here; where do you think we should rest.  You were talking about the water supply being gone in 2030; where do you think we should concentrate on population wise in Henry County?”

 

Chairman Maddox:  “Population wise?”

 

Bill McLeer:  “Who much growth do you think number wise we should be thinking of?”

 

Chairman Maddox:  “Let me tell you something, I served on the Planning and Zoning Board back in the middle 80s.  I served with Mr. Solomon and McDonald, and some that have gone from here; but anyway, as far as population of Henry County, I think we need to depend on the Water Authority because you can go back and look at their estimates of the number of people in Henry County and almost every time their estimate, each five or ten years, the Water Authority has been the closest in predicting the number of people in Henry County.  You better listen to what they say.”

 

Chairman Schafer:  “Any other comments from the Planning Commission.  At this time I will turn it over to Chairman Maddox to adjourn the Board of Commissioners.”

 

Commissioner Holman:  “Mr. Chairman, move to adjourn.”

 

Commissioner Harper seconded the motion.

 

Chairman Maddox:  “We have a motion and a second.  All those in favor?  So moved.”

The vote was 5-0.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                               

Leland Maddox, Chairman                                           Gary Schafer, Chairman

Board of Commissioners                                               Municipal Planning Commission

 

 

 

 

                                                           

Susan Craig, County Clerk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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