Is­sues aired on 2050 Plan

First of five pub­lic hear­ings brings out con­cerns on 2050 Plan

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

New­ton County cit­i­zens got their first crack at hear­ing about – and speak­ing out on – the 2050 Plan in a pub­lic hear­ing set­ting at Live Oak El­e­men­tary School Mon­day.

Close to 100 people showed up to find out more about the con­tro­ver­sial plan, which has been five years in the mak­ing and, as the weeks go by, ever in­creas­ingly on the minds of many county res­i­dents and landown­ers.

The evening started with an over­view of the plan by Cov­ing­ton-New­ton County Cham­ber of Com­merce Chair­man Hunter Hall, be­fore Caleb Raci­cot, who wrote the codes in the base­line or­di­nances, and con­sul­tant Royce Han­son spoke on a few of the 200-page doc­u­ment’s broader strokes. Much of the plan wasn’t dis­cussed Mon­day evening, and may be brought up in the up­com­ing four pub­lic hear­ings re­main­ing.

Cit­i­zens then got a chance to ask ques­tions and make com­ments be­fore the pre­sen­ta­tion con­cluded. Mem­bers help­ing the lead­er­ship col­lab­o­ra­tive also took down some of their ideas on large aisles, and lo­cal lead­ers such as New­ton County Chair­man Keith El­lis and other com­mis­sion­ers were avail­able for more pri­vate dis­cus­sions fol­low­ing the hear­ing.

Among the is­sues that came up with con­cerned cit­i­zens — about a dozen of whom got up to speak at the end of the hear­ing — were govern­ment con­trol, trans­fer de­vel­op­ment rights (TDRs) and acreage re­stric­tions in dif­fer­ent districts of New­ton County’s fu­ture.

Con­cerns ranged from whether or not the plan would work, why the govern­ment should de­cide on what goes where and why, more on how the TDRs work and why the lot sizes are limited to 20 acres in con­ser­va­tion districts and 10 in ru­ral districts.

A cit­i­zen in the ques­tion ses­sion asked, “Why aren’t we run­ning this thing like a ref­er­en­dum and the let the county it­self, rather than the five com­mis­sion­ers, de­cide?”

That was met with a re­sponse from Han­son of, “I have no opin­ion on that.” Hall, how­ever, was able to an­swer. “Our po­si­tion has al­ways been [that] zon­ing has al­ways been at the county or city level – that’s al­ways been (the com­mis­sion­ers’) rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as part of their gov­ern­ing roles. This is no dif­fer­ent. I that re­spect.”

One at­tendee of the hear­ing re­sponded, “This is dif­fer­ent. This is once in a life­time.”

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Raci­cot said the 2050 Plan com­bines zon­ing sub­di­vi­sion and de­vel­op­ment reg­u­la­tions into one doc­u­ment. It is meant to help businesses and in­vestors de­velop the area, as well as help­ing res­i­dents of the area main­tain a qual­ity of life as the county grows to what has been pre­dicted by the lead­er­ship col­lab­o­ra­tive to 400,000 people in 2050, as op­posed to the roughly 100,000 we have now.

Among the ideas to help the county main­tain farm­ing ar­eas and wa­ter sources that are un­pol­luted is hav­ing 20 acres of land for a property owner in a con­ser­va­tion district and 10 acres of land for a property owner in a ru­ral district.

The 20 and 10 acre is­sue has caused some of the most vo­cal op­po­si­tion. How­ever, Han­son, Raci­cot and Hall as­sured cit­i­zens that the 2050 Plan can still be re­vised. Among those re­vi­sions ex­pected is the 20 and 10 acre reg­u­la­tion.

“We know that is a con­tentious is­sue,” Raci­cot said.

The TDRs were an­other big is­sue which many spoke out on. Han­son will ad­dress TDRs in more de­tail at Thurs­day’s pub­lic hear­ing.

Thurs­day will be the sec­ond of five pub­lic hear­ings, tak­ing place at Mans­field El­e­men­tary School, 45 East Third Ave. in Mans­field at 6:30 p.m.

Dar­rell Everidge/The Cov­ing­ton News

Around 100 people at­tended the first pub­lic hear­ing con­cern­ing the 2050 Plan Mon­day evening.

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