Consultant reviews results of foresight, goalsetting in ‘90s

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Consultant reviews results of foresight, goalsetting in ‘90s

By Rupert Howell
County officials recently heard a review of Panola County’s history as it related to the planning and implementation of land classification, building codes and neighborhood standards during a joint meeting of Panola County’s Land Use Commission (Planning Commission) along with Panola’s five supervisors.

During a similar joint meeting last month, first year commission member Woodie Drake asked, “If we’re known as the planning commission, where’s the plan?”

That question sparked an invitation to last Monday’s meeting to invite planning consultant Bob Barber to share the commission’s history.

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Barber is not only familiar with “Progress Panola,” a plan that was designed to help rural Panola County join the new century, but he also led the team of appointed volunteers through the study, goal setting and implementation in the late 1990s.

Barber told of how sewage was running into county roads, how supervisors were asked to accept sub-standard private roads, how there were no subdivision standards. He provided pictures to back up his message.

He said the original committee appointed by a previous board of supervisors worked tirelessly to identify problems and plan a slow implementation, such as land classification and updated building codes to stabilize the housing market to give Panola a competitive advantage in the area of economic development and provide accurate growth and development information.
A few in the room remembered a proposed strip joint slated for Highway 6 east of Batesville in the earlier years. Barber recalled a commission meeting that filled the courtroom with spectators opposed to the proposal.

They would have had little discourse had the commission and land classification not been in place Barber recalled.

At the time of its implementation in 1999, Barber said Panola was one of eight or 10 counties in Mississippi to have standards. He explained that following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, coastal counties jumped on the wagon.

But everyone in the room including Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons expressed the importance of preserving the Highway 6 corridor between Batesville and Oxford as a controlled area where building standards are needed to insure pleasing esthetics with quality homes, subdivisions and commercial buildings.

District Five Supervisor Cole Flint expressed concern about costly regulations being too expensive for citizens  and excessive regulation and red tape hampering progress which he said he had experienced with the city of Batesville.

“I don’t want to see restrictions prohibiting growth,” Flint said.

Commission member Danny Jones said, “We will not get to the point of Batesville. Panola County standards can be lowered or raised as needed.”

On another matter, Simmons said, “Industrialists won’t move into a residential area. They want to know how close to a residential area is the site you’re offering.”

During his presentation, Barber suggested that Panola consider when to update the 20-year plan as it was adopted in 1999.

“In the latter part of the 20-year planning horizon, things change,” Barber warned.