Opinion – 5/5/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 5, 2006

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 5/5/06 issue of The Panolian :                 
Planned land use aids economic development

Some readers may think this newspaper pays overmuch attention to planning, zoning and building codes.

We think not.

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In the midst of Tuesday’s meeting of the Batesville mayor and aldermen, there were public hearings involving land use questions. (Stories on pages A6 and A12.) That’s the procedure for someone who wants to use property for something other than for which it is zoned. The hearing is advertised in the newspaper and on a sign placed on the affected property. People who live nearby have the opportunity to come and voice their opinion about the proposed change.

One man wanted a conditional use permit to operate a business that the property where he wanted it located was not zoned for. A conditional use permit is a handy device for allowing such a request. The city leaders determined – after rather intense questioning of the applicant – that he understood the conditions that they were requiring him to comply with. They emphasized that if he failed to comply, his business could be shut down by the code enforcement office.

Another man sought a variance that would allow him to place a mobile home on Brewer Road.

"You’re kind of in a hot area," the city attorney told him. (When the Brewer Road area was annexed into the city, residents there were told that one protection that they would receive would be that of city zoning which restricted placement of mobile homes, a city official said.)

Though the variance would have been good for only six months, with only one six month renewal possible, at least one adjacent resident opposed the change and expressed his or her opinion in writing. (The way these public hearings work is that a person may express his or her opinion in person or in writing – by letter or email – but phone calls to the mayor or to an alderman, though they may influence the recipient, hold no legal bearing in the public hearing.)

When assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell examined the city’s code book, he found language indicating that if a person living with 600 feet of a property objects to a zoning variance request, it cannot be approved. "If they object and they are within 600 feet, you can’t do it," he said.

The two matters took about 20 minutes of the meeting’s time and were so routinely handled that the value of the process might be overlooked by those grown accustomed to such proceedings.

However, Batesville’s economic development and the safety of its citizens have been enhanced by the foresight of city leaders who many years ago adopted zoning and strict building codes. Though each have at times become unpopular with individuals, the years of controlled growth and closely monitored construction practices have paid off by creating a more attractive city whose structures are safer to live in and work in.

That planned, regulated growth is more of a protection than a hindrance is an idea which is largely accepted in the city and is finding growing acceptance in areas outside city limits.

It is also an idea which is envied by our neighbors in another Panola municipality. "If you want to see what uncontrolled land use can do, come take a look at Crenshaw," said a caller who lamented that junk-filled lots, abandoned, overgrown homes and dilapidated mobile homes placed randomly throughout the town were forcing property values to plummet there.

Little do we realize the growing importance that controlled land use and uniform, safe construction standards will play in the next ten years as an economic development tool.




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