John Howell column

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 15, 2009

Two things: Land use commissioners and rail service

Two things:
First, I regret the resignation that came during Monday’s meeting of the Panola County Land Use Commission. Everybody on that commission is not supposed to agree, but every member is important.

This appointed commission has served Panola well since its inception. What they do will become increasingly important as more land is developed for various uses and as the county moves closer to adopting zoning regulations.

Land use commissioners will always be faced with establishing the difficult balance between “It’s my land and I’ll do with it what I want to” and an obligation not to do something on your land that will hurt your neighbor’s use, enjoyment or value of his land.

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The people who serve on this commission rarely hear from us until they are considering some request for land use that might affect our property.  Then they will hear plenty, and rarely will they hear “Thanks.”

Again, what these people do is increasingly important to everybody in this county. If your supervisor asks you to serve, it means that he considers you someone capable of making difficult but fair decisions. It means that the county needs you.

Second, we need right now to get on top of the sale of the railroad that runs through this county.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find a story about CN Railroad’s decision to sell its Grenada line between Memphis and Jackson to a Grenada Railway, LLC. That may be okay or it may be a step that ends with abandonment of the line.

Representative Warner McBride, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, plans to hold a public meeting in the near future, he told us. He is currently working with a group from West Point trying to re-establish the old C and G rail route that connects the Tombigbee and Mississippi Rivers. If you’re driving down Interstate 55, you can see the condition of that route today as you cross its overpass just north of Winona. Trees have now grown up between the rails.

We wish Grenada Railway, LLC success with operating the line as short line railroad, but if that should fail, plans should be in place to organize a consortium of affected cities that could preserve their rail links.

We don’t need to wait until trees are growing up between the rails before we decide that rail service to our cities needs to be preserved.