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Opinion Community cooperation is worth sustaining

George HasaraColloquialisms come and go but the current usage of “sustainability” appears that it can, well – be sustained. The beauty of the term is that it is a one-word expression with its meaning clearly defined. Two local news stories relate to sustainability. Franklin’s Taste of Scotland (TOS) festival has come to an apparent end after a long run and the Macon County Planning Board looks like it’s going to implode.

There were 15 consecutive incarnations of the Scottish festival. M*A*S*H was a great TV series lasting 11 seasons, but, it too, completed its cycle. In either case, lack of perpetuity is hardly a sign of failure.

TOS was not only an annual event but also involved a year’s worth of planning and preparation to sustain. Many dedicated volunteers invested countless hours and energy to keep it going. While the directors of the event held a paid position, if their time was computed, there probably would have been issues with violations of minimum wage laws.

A natural reaction following the hosting of a successful festival is to put it on track as an annual event. The next phase is often the assumption that in order to be successful, it needs to be bigger and “better.” In time, the original purpose of what the event is supposed to be promoting can be replaced with focusing on the event itself as a means to an end. If requirements of time, money and energy can be shared by a “renewable” pool of people – sustainability of a festival is viable. If not, it’s time to think outside of the plaid, exploring other options of celebration and promotion.

Another colloquialism, “Why can’t we all just get along?” is calling out to the Macon County Commissioners and its Planning Board. The issue of steep slope has become quite a slippery slope for those dealing with the prospect of crafting an ordinance.

In brief, only building sites over a 30 percent slope would be regulated for foundational integrity with sites exceeding 40 percent requiring more extensive inspection including an engineering analysis. A major impetus for the proposed steep slope regulations came after the 2004 Peeks Creek disaster. Flooding from Hurricane Ivan triggered a massive mudslide destroying several homes and killing five people. Though the proposed regulations would not have prevented the tragedy, the challenges of mountain home construction came under greater scrutiny.

The discussions concerning steep or safe slopes can be seen as either “protections” or “restrictions” depending on one’s point of view. It seems that steep arguments have developed over personalities, ignoring pragmatism, in balancing public safety with property rights. It's difficult for me to comprehend how people can donate their precious time to serving on a planning board in the first place. Now, throw a hostile environment into the mix. Nope, not sustainable.

Another colloquialism comes into play with these issues. “All publicity is good publicity.” Though a great deal of bitterness and frustration has been venting from the Macon County Planning Board, it has had the effect of attracting attention, and with that, hopefully increased citizen involvement in our local government. With more public eyes watching, maybe we can help sustain cooperation.

News about the demise of TOS will hopefully stimulate interest and participation in Scottish/Celtic events. Such events aren't going to happen on their own. Everyone can't be a spectator. At some point you have to wear the kilt and strap on your sporran, becoming a part of heritage sustainability.


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