County talks commercial encroachment
Published 6:31 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019
BY ALICIA B. HILL
During the question and answer portion of last week’s State of the County address, members of the Troup County Board of Commissioners addressed concerns regarding encroachment and urban sprawl.
The board is no stranger to the concerns, which are frequently listed as reasons against rezonings during meetings. However, the address allowed for a more general discussion on how residents can help maintain the character of the neighborhoods where they live and work.
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“One of the things that worries me is encroachment,” said Philip Truitt, a citizen at the meeting who lives on family farm land. “I have lost my night sky. The traffic is just awful out here, and I know I am in a losing battle against that because property owners as they get older sell off. I am probably one of the few remaining that were originally there. So, where is the limit?”
Truitt went on to say that he is not opposed to economic development, but he wanted the commissioners to stand up for citizens in rural areas.
“That is a fine line of balance that we as commissioners have to keep in mind to keep in contact the rural integratory of this county,” said Commissioner Lewis Davis, who also lives on a family farm. “We want [the county] to grow. We want it to prosper. We want to see development but in the correct areas. That is what we are trying to do.”
Davis encouraged citizens who want a voice in development in their area to attend zoning meetings, Troup County Board of Commissioner meetings where zoning applications are considered and pay attention to signs noting possible development on properties. The Troup County Board of Commissioners typically states during meetings if members or county staff received phone calls in favor or against new zonings.
“One of the best things you can do is what you are doing right now,” Davis said. “You are making your voice heard. That is important. Believe you, me — if somebody calls the five of us [commissioners] on the phone, two or three people, and lets us know what their thoughts are, it goes a long way with our decision making. If we don’t hear from people, it is very difficult to come up with a decision that everybody wants because we don’t necessarily know.”
Additionally, Troup County is currently in the process of rewriting its Unified Development Ordinance, which could help control what type of developments are allowable in certain areas. The county has already hosted one public forum on the rewrite, and another is expected in coming months.
“We are in this process right now of updating all of the development ordinances, and that is where you figure out where to draw the line so to speak,” County Engineer James Emery said. “It is a whole lot of balance, but when it comes down to the codes, you are writing something that has to try to strike that balance. So, that is the time to get involved on a large scale. On a small scale, every time those signs go up for a zoning change or a special use or whatever it is, pay attention to those, and let us hear from you. You’d be surprised probably how little we hear from public comment when we ask for public comment.”
The commission also talked about how they handle development inquiries in the urban parts of the county.
“We have a county character map where years ago they sat down and tried to identify what areas of the county they could expect to see growth in, so that we wouldn’t just have an urban sprawl,” Troup County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews said.
Davis said that some services like water and sewer can limit commercial developments to discourage large businesses from opening in otherwise rural areas. According to Crews, running water and sewer lines in rural parts of the county costs more than it brings in, and where those are located can be a deciding factor for some developments.
“We try to push all that huge commercial toward more urban areas because the infrastructure is there — the water and sewer and power and stuff like that,” Crews said. “Of course, we hope to have businesses … in other areas, but the big stuff like developments, subdivisions, huge manufacturing, we are trying to push that toward the city limits.”
Finally, Commissioner Morris Jones said that one of the ways the county has tried to encourage similar developments to bunch together is through its support of the Georgia International Business Park.
“Your big commercial developments are why Troup County and the City of LaGrange are in with the new industrial park,” Jones said. “So, when the other new industry that comes in, they are in a set location, and they aren’t moving into the unincorporated area because there are a lot of people that have a problem even when a subdivision is going to be put in their community, much less a big commercial [development].”