- City Council, educate yourselves
The article in The Times this week about our city council's recommendation that the members of the Historic Preservation Commission be required to attend training was somewhat amusing to me. Commission members do attend training and are apparently more familiar with the city's preservation ordinance than are the members of the city council.
The ordinance was adopted by the city council several decades ago to protect the integrity of the city's older neighborhoods. The members are appointed by the city council to oversee that ordinance and assist property owners to make good decisions about changes made to exterior of their property in keeping with the ordinance. This impacts the entire neighborhood and ultimately the city. Having served several terms on this commission, I can tell you that the city council has not been forthcoming in its support of the commission as it works to uphold the ordinance adopted by the city council.
It seems to me that the City Council is the group that needs training to learn the city's ordinances. Instead they seem to choose to play favorites with those who appeal the commission's decisions and recommendations thus severely weakening the ordinance which they themselves are elected to uphold. It is a sad day when unpaid, volunteers such as the Historic Preservation Commissioners of the city of Valdosta are seen as adversaries by the very people who appointed.
Circular driveways in front yards of houses in the historic district are not allowed by the ordinance! They do exist, many without permits, but they convert the traditional landscaping into parking lots which is not appropriate for older residences. This is rarely a safety issue. In almost every case, vehicles can turn around in back yards or existing garages.
- Is this paper being biased in annnexation coverage?
We think the newspaper has been somewhat biased in their coverage on forced annexation. This is not necessarily intentionally, but because they have accepted as fact all of the erroneous information given by the bureaucracy. However, we believe that, in time the evidence will convince The Valdosta Daily Times of the need to compile an accurate summary of the city's commitment to waste your tax dollars, plus the emotional and financial harm to more than 2,000 citizens. Then we believe The VDT will be supportive of our position. We also believe that even the city council would be more conciliatory if they were aware of the tremendous burden, both financially, and emotionally to the island citizens.
The reasons for annexation put forth by the city, such as better security, sanitation, fire protection, and all around better communications sounds good. However, when these reasons were debated before the planning commission, these reasons were shown to be "smoke and mirrors." As a result, the planning commission, in its wisdom, voted against forced annexation. The mayor and three councilmen were opposed to forced annexation. Do you realize that if just one councilman had been absent, forced annexation would not have passed? Also, if the mayor could have voted, forced annexation would not have passed. So you see there is no proven need for this forced annexation. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department issued a delay of up to 60 day to allow extra time to study the effect of annexation. Judge Altman asked that we attempt to negotiate our differences. We are attempting to do this by making a proposal to the city that would allow a referendum in each island. We want the city to know that our minds are not closed. We would be willing to negotiate on any reasonable alternative to this forced annexation.
Please understand that we are not opposed to progress. But, is it progress to spend over $15 million tax dollars to build infrastructure and then, as Mr. Hanson said, "wait for the homeowners to feel comfortable and want to connect?" And how long will the city have to wait for homeowners to connect to city services? My septic system has been operating satisfactorily for over 26 years. With proper maintenance, it should operate for another 26 years. Also it is anticipated that well water should be available indefinitely. So I ask, how long will the city wait?
Even if there were no question of the legality of forced annexation, but there is. It is not right for the city council to force such a massive disruption of people's lives, emotionally, and financially, especially since we had no say in their election. It is un-American!
Please join with us in continuing our effort to prevent this unwise, unneeded, an un-American attempt by the city to force annexation. We have already spent considerably more than we have collected. Donations are needed now. Remember, any funds left over will be returned to donors on a pro-rata basis. You may mail your checks to: Island Defense, c/o First Valdosta Realty Bldg., 3470A North Valdosta Road., Valdosta, GA 31602.
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