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Features Planning board in final read of comprehensive plan

At a recent meeting of the Macon County Planning Board, County Planner Derek Roland (standing) passed out the penultimate draft of the county’s comprehensive plan. Photo by Chris CarpenterHigh Impact Ordinance review will not be a priority for the board

After nearly a decade of talk and more than a year of intensive work by the planning board and a handful of other volunteer advisory committees, Macon County will finally have a comprehensive plan for development and growth. At a meeting of the planning board on Thursday, March 17, county planner Derek Roland passed out copies of a final draft of the plan, a 134-page document plus appendices which, includes an exhaustive analysis of the county, including population and economic trends, and gives recommendations for growth in five major areas.

The planning board has already read through and made corrections to the entire document once. At Thursday's meeting, board member Mark West suggested that the document be read individually by the board one final time for possible corrections or suggestions. Others, including acting chairman Larry Stenger, agreed that a final reading would be useful.

The plan is intended to provide a play book for county officials and leaders over the next 20 years as they plan and make policy for targeted growth and development in the county. Development of the comprehensive plan included an intensive public input process, which Roland says is the foundation and strength of the plan.

“We have a plan here that is representative and which was built by the citizens of Macon County and for the citizens,” he said. “It is representative of a vision, and it is a plan of how to achieve that vision.”

“We have a plan here that is representative and which was built by the citizens of Macon County and for the citizens. It is representative of a vision, and it is a plan of how to achieve that vision.” – County planner Derek Roland

The five general areas of growth which the document provides recommendations for include: economic development and public services; land use and environment; education and recreation; transportation and housing; and healthcare, childcare, and senior services.

High Impact Ordinance review will not be a priority

Roland also delivered a letter to board members from County Commissioner Bob Kuppers, planning board liaison, which restated the recent unanimous decision by the commissioners not to direct the planning board to prioritize a review of the county's High Impact Ordinance. Neighbors of a Clarks Chapel man, Bud Talley, who are pushing for changes to the ordinance, had asked the county to take the issue under consideration as soon as possible.

Talley, who withdrew plans for a mile-long motocross racetrack on his family farm after it became apparent that he would not receive the required variance, has more recently suggested that he would build a practice track for the dirt bikes that will operate under the limits imposed by the High Impact Ordinance.

In the discussion after receiving Kuppers' letter, some members of the planning expressed a desire to review the ordinance anyway.

“I think it's an important issue,” said member Alan Marsh. “I think it ought it be moved up.” Marsh, who is from Highlands, noted that commercial activity like Talley is proposing would not be allowed in the town limits.

Stenger noted that the board's mandate was to follow the direction of the county commissioners. “As a board, we follow the instructions of the commissioners,” he said. “If they say to put this down, we do it.”

Stenger added, however, that the board could request that commissioners allow them to move the ordinance up in their priorities. Marsh and board member Susan Ervin both said they thought the board should consider such a request.

Board member Jimmy Goodman said he felt the board should stick with the priorities the commissioners had already charged them with. No further discussion was made on the issue.


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