The Covington News - - Front page -

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.

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