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3-24-06 Citizen Power – Zoning-Planning- Good Trends in Oconee & Clarke Counties

In this day of the Internet, all zoning notices should also be posted on County Websites.  Agenda and draft minutes should be instantly available.  Counties have the resources and personnel to post these things.  It will reach far more citizens than the current system of “posting” (a sign that is sometimes in an inconspicuous place) or running a “Legal Notice”.

 

Clarke County has announced a new program for notifying “Communities of Interests” of proposed rezones.   A community organizes and registers for email notices of zonings.  That is a great program that other growing counties should emulate.

 

CITIZEN POWER- Emails, Websites, Networks and communications through the Internet will change local government in a big way.  That is a good thing.

AVOC

 

March 21, 2006

 

Citizen Power – Zoning-Planning- Good Trends in Oconee & Clarke Counties

 

By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

 

I frequently hear folks say things like:  “Where are all these people coming from?”;  “Houses are going up everywhere”; in Clarke, “Where can they build the next apartments, on stilts!?”   Citizens have been upset when it involves the neighborhood.  However, the pace of growth has attracted the attention of many intelligent, sophisticated and concerned citizens.   That is a good thing.

 

Clarke County has announced a new program for notifying “Communities of Interests” of proposed rezones.   A community organizes and registers for email notices of zonings.  That is a great program that other growing counties should emulate.

 

State Law requires that Zoning Changes be advertised in the Legal Organ of a County.  At one time, that reached everybody.  However, like the A-Model, that day is gone.    Legal sections have gotten longer and longer.  It takes a real search to find things of interest. 

 

In this day of the Internet, all zoning notices should also be posted on County Websites.  Agenda and draft minutes should be instantly available.  Counties have the resources and personnel to post these things.  It will reach far more citizens than the current system of “posting” (a sign that is sometimes in an inconspicuous place) or running a “Legal Notice”.

 

Rampant and sprawling development has spawned at least two new citizens groups in rural areas of Oconee County.  The Farmington area has organized a group called CSOC (Citizens South Oconee County).  That group has a Website and a slogan, “Keep the Farm in Farmington”.   They have received favorable coverage in the Athens Banner-Herald.

 

Recently, Citizens in the Gober-Price Mill Roads area have organized to monitor rezones in their area of the county.   They were in attendance (at least 30 – 40 folks) at the Planning Commission Meeting on March 20, 2006, when the Planning Commission voted down a Rezone on Gober Road by a 4 – 2 vote.  Sources tell AVOC that some very informative and intelligent presentations were made by the citizens.

 

Citizens for Oconee’s Future, Inc, has worked for about two years to monitor development, county policies and to inform the public.  A website and large email tree has been in operation since mid-2004.

 

A watchdog group in another area county has an email list of over 300 addresses.   These are good things for Open and Honest Government.  It also encourages responsible government and discourages Conflicts of Interest and ethical problems.

 

CITIZEN POWER- Emails, Websites, Networks and communications through the Internet will change local government in a big way.  That is a good thing.


 

Citizens for South Oconee County (CSOC)

PO Box 835

Farmington, 30638

SouthOconee@yahoo.com

http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-SouthOconee

 

Citizens for Oconee’s Future, Inc.

P O Box 1301

Watkinsville, GA  30677

http://www.oconeesfuture.com/index.html

oconeesfuture@aol.com


AVOC  Thoughts on Citizen Involvement

 

  1. More cohesion of groups; communications; Address list.
  2. Many have separate agendas;
  3. Policies and goals —broader than two or three officers;
  4. Be careful about Activist Label—“Agin Everything”;
  5. Mail-list;
  6. Regular meetings; Publicity and Press Releases;
  7. Draft of generic principles shared with persons who might write letters to editors;
  8. Image of few folks showing up all the time; Not  always on the attack;
  9. Need to have “County-Wide” public presence;
  10. Just attending meetings and lobbying officials will not do it;  They are lobbied regularly by  influential and powerful persons;
  11. Need enough folks and networking to have impact.
  12. Sooner or later, reporters always change; need more communications to the “powers to be” in Newspaper;
  13. The Weeklies do not reach or influence as many people as some might think.
  14. Hang In! It does make a difference.  See lower profile of some individuals who have come under scrutiny;
  15. Influence the BOC- through the public.  They will listen to citizens who talk to them at church, clubs, etc.
  16. Citizen involvement is a long-term and ongoing commitment.  However a great community is worth the effort.

3-8-06 Fast Growth concerns in South Oconee

 

Athens Banner-Herald 3.8.06 "Everyone we talked to said that they were concerned about rate of growth in the entire county and concerned about that development encroaching on South Oconee," he added.

Citizens for South Oconee County (CSOC)

http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-SouthOconee

PO Box 835

Farmington, 30638

 

Farmington Depot

 

Bumperstickers are available!!!

  

This bumpersticker is now available! Show your support for the Farmington community while speaking out against unwanted and unneeded development such as another convenience store or a truck stop.

 

SEE: 

3-7-06 Trends in Georgia toward Pro-Development and Secret Government Policies

1-20-06 Strength in numbers- Homeowner Assocs. & Citizens Networking

2-24-06 Residential development - runoff, density, larger lots and lawsuits

 

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/030806/news_20060308057.shtml

 

March 8, 2006

 

Citizens want area to retain rural roots

Farmington

 

A barrage of rezoning requests for developments ranging from an upscale subdivision along the Apalachee River to a 14-acre truck stop along U.S. Highway 441, prompted residents in Oconee County's sparsely populated areas to come together to try to hold on to their agrarian roots.

Citizens for South Oconee, the latest of several smart-growth advocacy groups formed over the last three years, came together in February after citizens rallied against a rezoning that would bring a 14-acre truck stop near to Oconee County's Heritage Park on U.S. Highway 441.

Their slogan quickly became, "Keep the 'Farm' in Farmington," although a number of members live on the Apalachee River near Oconee's border with Morgan County, said Courtney Gale, who's lived on Branch Road near Farmington for just under a year.

"There's just a rural character to south Oconee and the future land use plan has it designated for agriculture," Gale said.

"Keep the Farm in Farmington just means we don't want truck stops going all along (U.S. Highway) 441 and ruining the character of this area. There are still several farms in this area, too, and we want to respect and preserve them."…………

"People who live down in Farmington really love the area," Glenn said. "But since there aren't really very close to each other, it's hard to act as one community and to get together to talk about the issues that are facing all of us."…….

Organizers hoped the potluck would build a sense of community and encourage people who don't usually speak out at public meetings to talk about issues that concern them without being intimidated, Glenn said.

"Everyone we talked to said that they were concerned about rate of growth in the entire county and concerned about that development encroaching on South Oconee," he added.


Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 030806


3-9-06 Citizens for South Oconee gets good press from Athens Banner-Herald

 

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/030906/opinion_20060309024.shtml

 

March 9, 2006             EDITORIAL

 

Oconee group takes right step with land use

 

The group's name - Citizens for South Oconee - has that familiar ring to it, like the names applied to the numerous citizen groups that often rise up in neighborhoods, cities and counties across Northeast Georgia to voice various concerns about zoning and land-use issues.

There is, however, an important difference between Citizens for South Oconee and many of those other citizen groups. While formation of the group was prompted by the filing of a number of rezoning requests - for subdivisions and, in one instance, a truck stop - Citizens for South Oconee is nonetheless still positioned to take proactive, rather than reactive, steps to exert some control over land use in rural Oconee County.

Often, citizen groups dedicated to zoning and land-use issues are formed on an ad hoc basis, to fight specific rezoning requests. These groups are routinely loose-knit collections of neighbors - or, in some cases, collections of neighborhoods - which band together to fight unwanted industrial, commercial or governmental encroachment in the vicinity of their homes. Such groups seldom do more than encourage a show of force at the planning commission and county commission meetings where the rezoning request of specific interest to them is discussed. Such groups can be effective in serving the limited purposes for which they are intended, but it's rare for them to prompt government officials to take a serious look at zoning and land-use issues.

That's where Citizens for South Oconee could really make a difference. Already, the group has a clear goal. Expressed succinctly in its slogan "Keep the 'Farm' in Farmington," the group's focus is to maintain the rural character of communities like Farmington and the undeveloped areas of southern Oconee County……..

They're off to a good start, and Citizens for South Oconee will be a group that bears watching as a potential model for residents of other areas who want to exercise some real power over their communities' growth.


 

3-10-06 Athens-Clarke Email notice on rezones is great idea

 

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/031006/news_20060310048.shtml

 

March 10, 2006

 

Line forming to receive updates on development

E-mail system

 

A program that allows Clarke County neighborhoods to sign up for e-mail updates on new developments is drawing rave reviews from Athens-Clarke County commissioners and residents.

The county commission approved five neighborhoods - Cedar Creek, Midtown/Bloomfield, Green Acres-Crestwood, Red Fox Run and Woodhaven - Tuesday night, and almost a dozen more are in line to join the program.

"I've never seen a program where so many neighborhoods were fighting to get a piece of the action," Commissioner Kathy Hoard said.

The neighborhood notification initiative allows existing neighborhood associations to register with the county to receive e-mail updates on any development plans, rezonings or variance requests submitted to the Athens-Clarke Planning Department weeks before the notices would have been posted on the department's Web site.

Unorganized neighborhoods can join the program by forming an association, designating a leader, setting boundaries and gathering signatures from people living in 20 percent of the houses or apartments within the boundaries.

Residents also can sign up for updates about 13 busy commercial and residential areas like downtown, Epps Bridge Parkway or South Milledge Avenue that don't fall into one specific neighborhood.

The initiative has tapped into widespread concern about growth and planning. An estimated 150 to 200 people, for example, attended a community meeting last month about organizing two dozen neighborhoods along southeastern Barnett Shoals Road.

Residents there are worried about growth spreading south down Barnett Shoals and north from Oconee County, said Gail Hoge, a resident of the Bar H Estates subdivision who Mayor Heidi Davison appointed to a 12-person committee that will study neighborhood planning.

"There are a lot of us out here who would like to keep the rural nature of the road," Hoge said.

The Barnett Shoals coalition has about a third of the 323 signatures it will need to become an official neighborhood, she said.

Even though it hasn't been officially recognized, the group has already shown strength in numbers. The fledgling organization convinced county commissioners to repeal a decision to rebuild the intersection of Barnett Shoals and Old Lexington roads and instead create a traffic plan for the entire Barnett Shoals-Whitehall Road corridor.

Five Points, Beechwood, Boulevard, Homewood Hills, Idylwood, McNutt's Creek, St. Ives and Holly Hills are among the neighborhoods either working on paperwork or awaiting commission approval to join the program, according to county planner Lara Mathes.

Most of the participating neighborhoods already are established, but Mathes said she expects interest from unorganized neighborhoods as well.

"For those areas, it's probably going to be a slower process," she said.

Although it's popular, the initiative has not been without critics. Commissioner George Maxwell voted against creating it in May, saying it wouldn't benefit his largely unorganized East Athens and Hancock Avenue district……..


Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 031006


3-12-06 Zoning Notices will pay off for Clarke County

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/031206/opinion_20060312048.shtml

 

March 12, 2006              EDITORIAL

 

Zoning notices will pay off for Athens-Clarke

 

It's of more than passing interest that the Athens-Clarke County government's new program to provide residents with advance e-mail notice of development coming to their neighborhoods is a resounding success.

The initial scope of the program's success is certainly worthy of note. At their Tuesday meeting, Athens-Clarke County commissioners approved five neighborhoods - Cedar Creek, Midtown/Bloomfield, Green Acres-Crestwood, Red Fox Run and Woodhaven - for the program, and there are almost a dozen more neighborhoods in line to become part of it…….

In addition to getting information on their neighborhoods, residents can sign up to get updates on development-related issues along more than a dozen major community corridors, such as the downtown area, Epps Bridge Parkway or South Milledge Avenue.

But perhaps more important than the obvious initial success of neighborhood notification is how it might help shape the future of Athens-Clarke County. In order to become eligible for the advance e-mail notices, communities across the county must take a number of actions, including establishment of neighborhood boundaries, forming a neighborhood association and choosing a leader for the group.

Because of its focus on getting residents thinking about the community in terms of specific neighborhoods, a long-term effect of the notification initiative could be to get residents thinking about where it is practical to draw neighborhood boundaries. That "firming up" of communities of like-minded citizens would be a good first step toward establishing Neighborhood Planning Units.

NPUs would, in turn, allow participating neighborhoods to chart the course for their own development. …….

That's a worthwhile goal, and the county government - in particular, the county commission - is due some praise for steering the community in that direction.


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