Members of my family have lived in Newton County since 1809. Early members were simply subsistence farmers; some were successful planters; some were Methodist ministers; architects; economists, etc. Some were considered wealthy, others financially challenged. But regardless of the times — various depressions, Civil War destruction and the real estate collapse of recent years, one member of the family has managed to survive without selling any of the land left by our forefathers. For eight generations we are proud of that accomplishment.
I guess because of my wife’s and my active involvement in various Newton County activities I was asked to participate on the small committee that was to be charged with coming up with a fair resolution to the controversy over the so-called 2050 Plan. I emphatically told our commissioner that I thought that I was the wrong guy to be on the committee because of the fact that my family is a large landowner and that some may consider me conflicted. But he insisted, so I said OK. Subsequently, in response to an apparent hue and cry by some of our citizenry, I was asked to bow out which I naturally and thankfully did.
To those who were concerned that I was miscast in the job I want to respond that I am very much in favor of protecting our county from uncontrolled development. I felt that the 2050 Plan, as originally written, was unrealistic in its expectations for a county such as Newton – yet had many merits.. As far as my family is concerned, we have no intention of dividing up our ancestral land.. However, I do recognize the situation that others may be in wanting the option to liquefy their land investments at some time in the future. Whether transferrable development rights are issued for 3, 5 or 10 acres, I sincerely believe they represent a creative option that landowners did not have before to partially cash out of their land yet still hold onto it. Contrary to some skeptics, I believe that small or larger tracts that are preserved forever will increase in value as small farms become scarce. For those who want to live in tighter, more neighborly communities, the plan creates areas in all districts of the county for this type development. Only time will tell how the 2050 Plan plays out. Nevertheless, I pray that we won’t simply abandon this attempt to plan for the future.