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Brown dives into High Falls Lake controversy

By Stewart Voegtlin Jackson Progress-Argus The second time was the charm for the Butts County Development Authority (BCDA) and its proposed rezoning of 284 acres from PM (Planned Development, Mixed Use) to M-1 (Manufacturing Light). The proposed rezoning concerns property located at Highway 36 West on Riverview Business Park Road in Jackson. Newly appointed Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board Member, Walter Mayfield, made the motion to approve at P&Z’s Thursday, February 12 meeting. Board Member Clint Crowe seconded Mayfield’s motion. A crowd of citizens from Butts, Lamar, and Monroe counties again assembled to hear the rezoning case, which P&Z tabled 30 days ago to allow citizens to meet with BCDA officials. BCDA Director Alan White told the Board and those in attendance an agreement between the Authority and the Butts County Water & Sewer Authority (BCWSA) guaranteeing water and sewer for the 284 acres was contingent upon M-1 rezoning. White also addressed citizen concerns regarding covenants and conditions. ’I want to be clear: There are no specific buildings ‘“ only projected,’ said White. ‘There are no drawings available for review. I can’t specify anything more specific. I have met with representatives from [Harbour Shores and Brushy Creek] subdivisions, and I have answered their questions.’ Harbour Shores resident Philip Spiers, who met with the BCDA on January 16, told P&Z he had consulted a land planner and raised the funds necessary to hire him. ’This is not to stop jobs, taxes, or industry, but to limit the impact on the lake,’ said Spiers. ‘We ask for another 30 days to come up with guidelines to protect the lake.’ High Falls Lake Association Chairman Bud Queen told P&Z funding for the land planner would be done through the HFLA, and the funds were on hand. ’There are a lot of things you need to know before you break ground,’ said Queen. ‘All we need is another 30 days.’ Brushy Creek resident Linda May presented a petition opposing the proposed rezoning to P&Z. ’This petition was signed by 138 people,’ said May. ‘They are all saying, ‘˜no.’ I think this rezoning is going to ruin the lake, no matter what you do. The people that signed this petition are citizens who said they didn’t want it. Please don’t do this. And, if you do, make sure you do it right.’ Jenkinsburg resident David Massey revived an argument he posed to the BCDA in 2005 regarding the two authorities and which body actually owned the 284 acres considered for rezoning. Massey questioned which authority owned the property, if that presented a legal issue, and said he hoped the BOC would consider dissolving the two authorities and assembling an Economic Development Authority before the rezoning was granted. Lamar County Commissioner George Brown spoke in tones accusatory and skeptical. ’We do not buy pigs in a poke,’ said Brown. ‘I’ve seen no plans. This would have been thrown out were [the Lamar County Commission] to have seen it.’ Brown said the BCDA had not paid any taxes on its Lamar County acreage, and Lamar County Water & Sewer knows nothing of BCWSA providing water and sewer to the property. According to minutes of the BCWSA October 10, 2006 meeting, BCWSA Chairman J.B. White met with Lamar County Water & Sewer (LCWSA) Chairman Wesley Wilson, and discussed the BCDA property. White and Wilson agreed on the following plan: BCWSA would provide sewer to the entire property, water service to all Butts County property, and wholesale water ‘“ on a case-by-case basis via master meter ‘“ to the LCWSA for it to sell to properties within its county lines. LCWSA General Manager Amberly Ferris told the Progress-Argus Lamar and Butts had a tentative agreement regarding water and sewer service to the BCDA property. ’We had an agreement drafted up well over a year ago,’ Ferris said. ‘We have a great open line of communication with [the BCWSA] and look to cooperate with them in any way we can.’ P&Z Board Member Walter Mayfield asked White if there had been any interest in the property for uses outside of industrial. White said there had not. ’In response to Mr. Massey’s question, the BCDA owns the property,’ White said. ‘We’ve not run across a legal issue in that regard. And I do appreciate Mr. Brown being here tonight. We do share this piece of property, but this rezoning request is simply for the Butts property only. To move into Lamar, we would appear before the Lamar County Commission. First things first.’ Planning & Zoning’s unanimous recommendation will go before the Board of Commissioners, Monday, February 23, for final approval.

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