of the Newton County Water and Sewage Authority, said before joining The Leadership Collaborative, he didn’t know other officials, like members of the Board of Education, and didn’t understand their issues, like why schools require so much land. Vice versa, he said the schools may not have understood why the WSA wanted a water system that used gravity flow technology.
The 2050 Plan has four principles: protect water sources, prevent sprawl by creating communities, create road and pedestrian corridors to connect those communities and coordinate infrastructure to save money. All of these principles are designed to improve quality of life, conserve agricultural land and natural resources and save governments money by concentrating services.
In addition, she said County Attorney Tommy Craig said he thought the county’s ordinances would hold up as long as the BOC was wary about issuing variances.
The conversation then turned toward schools. Morgan said Alcovy High School is the most expensive school to operate, because it’s isolated and requires many students to be bused in. When the school system was deciding where to locate its most recent school, Morgan said she told Superintendent Steve Whatley, he could put the school wherever he wanted, but the county wouldn’t pay to build roads or extend utilities. By working together, the school system ended up purchasing land owned by the Industrial Development Authority and working out an agreement with the WSA to extend utilities.
Marshall said the worst thing that happened during his time as Mayor of Macon was the decision of the school system to locate a school on the county line.
“All the urban planning experts will tell you to keep things congested. If something is out on its own, don’t build around it,” he said, noting that water authorities and school boards in many communities don’t talk. Executive Director Kay Lee said the population projection was based on a compilation from nine different demographic services companies. She said if growth comes slower, the county’s plan will simply be easier to carry out.
One of the keys of the plan is to have three areas of the county: a dense western section with five concentrated town centers at Covington, Almon, Salem, Oak Hill and Hub Junction that will house 80 percent of the population while composing only 35 percent of the land; a rural zone though the middle of the county that would house 15 percent of the population and take up 25 percent of the land; and a conservation zone in the eastern section that would take up 40 percent of the land and house only 5 percent of the population.
Marshall said sprawl is terrible, but he saw a problem with the plan, because the landowners in the west would have more valuable land than those in the east who couldn’t sell their land to developers. He proposed the idea of special tax districts, where the western zone would be taxed heavier because its residents would be the ones using the infrastructure built by the county. Although, he had never heard of this being done elsewhere, he said it was akin to taxing people who live in flood areas when levies were built.
Despite all of the positives, Marshall said local quality of life issues would be low on the federal government’s priority list. He said healthcare will totally bankrupt the government in the future, regardless of whether the recently passed bill stands.