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Environmental impacts

Lots of disputes of late have been about environmental impacts of proposed and ongoing developments. In land use lingo “development” usually means change of use. Use terminology leads us into a definition labyrinth with turns this way or that, depending on official interpretation as well as administrative actions and court rulings. The weeds are so thick and so high it is hard to know if a tiger lurks ahead or even is following, its breath on our napes. My review of the Madison County zoning ordinance found an interesting section titled “Developments of Regional Impact”. (Section 11.8, nerds) That review wound up at the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, based in Athens. That commission serves the region’s local governing bodies with technical and administrative support. I learned there that Madison County is technically in violation of their own ordinance because it did not apply for regional review of the Georgia Renewable Power plant. I learned that Madison County therefore will receive an administrative paddy-banding for its dereliction of rules following. Should the county pile up enough of those demerits it could lose its status as a Qualified Local Government, and ergo its eligibility for a broad array of financial and technical support from the state level. The GRP plant has proved to be a grumpy and disrespectful camper in this county. It has poisoned the air, fouled the water, and disturbed the peace. A growing number of county residents think that the permitting screen available to local authority, when it comes to environmental impacts, has holes big enough to throw a cat through, as some say. We should either amend the zoning regs, or, as some have proposed, set up a community based review panel that focuses on environment. Jim Baird Comer

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