New for­mat, fa­mil­iar con­cerns

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - ROB DEWIG rdewig@cov­

Elected officials were able to hear di­rectly from their con­stituents thanks to a new for­mat tried Tues­day at the fourth of five pub­lic hear­ings on the 2050 Plan. What they heard wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily new, but the small-group dis­cus­sions were well worth it, county com­mis­sion­ers agreed Wed­nes­day.

“I thought it was great,” Com­mis­sioner John Dou­glas said. “The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the cit­i­zens and the com­mis­sion­ers was ex­actly what we needed. I hope we con­tinue to do that. As we con­tinue to work through the 2050 Plan I’d like to use that for­mat.”

The pub­lic hear­ing be­gan with a 10-minute in­tro­duc­tion by Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Hunter Hall, af­ter which at­ten­dees were of­fered three choices — stay in the au­di­to­rium at East­side High School to hear a pre­sen­ta­tion about the ba­sics of the

plan from Hall, head to the cafe­te­ria for small-group dis­cus­sions with elected officials, or stand in the atrium with plan­ners and of­fer “so­lu­tions” to var­i­ous prob­lems with the plan.

Many of the 200 or so peo­ple at­tend­ing Tues­day’s meet­ing stayed with Hall. The orig­i­nal pur­pose of hav­ing five hear­ings spread through­out the county was to reach as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, Hall said, and many of the peo­ple Tues­day were at their first meet­ing.

Dozens fol­lowed the elected officials to the cafe­te­ria. Only a hand­ful stayed with plan­ners to work on so­lu­tions.

“We’ve re­hashed it so much there’s not a whole lot new out there, but it was great to hear ev­ery­body’s ideas and keep the peo­ple in­volved in what we’re do­ing in the com­mu­nity,” Dou­glas said. “I thought it was well worth the time we put into it last night.”

Com­mis­sioner Nancy Schulz agreed: “Per­son­ally, I re­ally liked (Tues­day) night’s for­mat be­cause it gave me a chance to hear very spe­cific ques­tions from, specif­i­cally, the ar­eas in my district. I don’t have any of the large con­ser­va­tion dis­tricts (home of the con­tro­ver­sial 20-acre lot min­i­mums); I have the ru­ral district and the com­pact com­mu­nity zones. It al­lowed me to hear ques­tions unique to those ar­eas.

“I was very ap­pre­cia­tive of the peo­ple who came and sat and helped me, to ed­u­cate me about their po­si­tion, and I feel very com­fort­able that in time we’re go­ing to get a plan that is re­ally some­thing that our county can be proud of be­cause they helped cre­ate it.”

She par­tic­u­larly liked a sug­ges­tion de­liv­ered to the com­mis­sion­ers sug­gest­ing the “trans­ferrable devel­op­ment rights” por­tion of the plan be con­verted into more of an in­cen­tive pro­gram to help con­serve ru­ral ar­eas of the county.

“I read it and thought ‘Holy moly, this is what we’ve been look­ing for.’ He gave sug­ges­tions for an in­cen­tivized TDR plan. The more acreage you’ve got, the ex­po­nen­tially more TDR cred­its you’ve got. I don’t know if it would work … but it’s a great idea,” she said. “This is ex­actly what we’re look­ing for – ideas to take those four prin­ci­ples and fig­ure out at the end of the day how to achieve (them). At the end of the day, that is what we re­ally want.”

The plan was cre­ated with four goals, or prin­ci­ples, in mind: pre­serv­ing the county’s drink­ing wa­ter, par­tic­u­larly the Al­covy River; de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ties; con­nect­ing ar­eas of the county; and co­or­di­nat­ing gov­ern­men­tal spend­ing.

The county’s cur­rent zon­ing “al­lows for sprawl,” Schulz said. “The sta­tus quo is not go­ing to work. But keep­ing in mind those four prin­ci­ples, how do we go to some­thing that achieves those four prin­ci­ples with some­thing the com­mu­nity has cre­ated? I would say I was very en­er­gized by last night.”

Com­mis­sion Chair­man Keith El­lis said the for­mat change “was well re­ceived. Our cit­i­zens were happy that they could speak to di­rectly to their elected of­fi­cial con­cern­ing the 2050 Plan. They took the op­por­tu­nity to ask me ques­tions and I was able to get their views and opin­ions dur­ing that time as well.”

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Dou­glas, El­lis, Schulz and may­ors Jerry Rose­berry of Ox­ford, Ar­line Chap­man of Por­terdale and Ron­nie John­ston of Cov­ing­ton sat (for a while, at least) at sep­a­rate ta­bles and fielded ques­tions. Quickly, how­ever, John­ston and Chap­man were at El­lis’ ta­ble, where they could par­tic­i­pate in the con­ver­sa­tion.

El­lis told par­tic­i­pants he’s “not about to OK” the plan as-is. He said his goal is to pass a plan and the or­di­nances to en­force it that will “stand the test of time” and be some­thing his grand­chil­dren can be proud of.

Op­po­nents unite

Out­side East­side, op­po­nents of the plan set up a ta­ble and col­lected sig­na­tures and email ad­dresses for a clear­ing house of in­for­ma­tion about the plan, said Fred Wheeler. The group has a face­book page; search for “Stop the 2050 Plan.”

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