Commission rejects 20 year growth plan

Friday, March 30, 2007

Changes to Marshall County's 20-year growth plan were rejected on Monday by county commissioners who voted 10-8 against a recommendation that's being returned to a special committee working on the plan since early autumn.

Very little discussion was heard during the commissioner's regular meeting Monday on the recommendation from the Marshall County Coordinating Committee which is comprised of officials and community leaders from the county and all its municipalities, according to those in attendance.

However, after the meeting there were recurring comments that the proposal failed because urban growth areas around Chapel Hill, and possibly at Petersburg remained too large. State law requires designation of urban growth areas, beyond which annexation is illegal without an amendment to the 20-year plan.

"I think they realized Chapel Hill's growth area is too large," said Bill Gillespie, a member of the coordinating committee who observed Monday's vote.

As for a solution, Gillespie said, "They'll just vote on a reduction of some sort."

While Chapel Hill officials reduced the size of their town's proposed urban growth area, some area residents remained opposed to passage of the plan with such a large area where Chapel Hill might grow. That position was maintained by some even after the town's Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted a resolution saying the town wouldn't annex land without a request from the owners.

County Commission Chairman Sam Smith announced after the 10-8 vote that he would appoint a panel to meet with the Coordinating Committee so the reasons for rejection of the 20-year plan might be discussed. Presumably, the panel could point out where the proposed 20-year plan might be adjusted so it could pass the commission and be submitted to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Commissioners voting against approval of the plan were Dean Delk, Rocky Bowden, Sam Smith, Joe B. Brandon, Richard Medley, Scott Porch, Mickey King, Phil Willis, Seth Warf and Linda Williams.

Voting yes to approve the plan were Mary Ann Neill, E.W. Hill, Larry McKnight, Reynell Smith, Jennifer Harris, Spider Wentzel, Don Ledford, and Jimmy Stitt.

McKnight was "surprised" at the vote and wasn't sure why the plan failed to get a majority, he said Tuesday.

The plan was a result of hard work, he said.

"It's a 20-year plan. It's not for just tomorrow," he said of the state-required plan that's being adjusted with acknowledgment of growth in the county. "You might ask, 'Is it aggressive enough?'

"Lewisburg realized its urban growth area wasn't big enough," McKnight said. "The industrial park wasn't in it."

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said on Thursday that he'd not received a list of names of people who might be serving on the panel that Chairman Smith announced he would form.

"The chairman has not gotten back with anybody on who will be serving on that committee, as far as I know," Liggett said, emphasizing that more than 62 hours after the vote he'd only heard "speculation" on why the plan was not approved.

"Chapel Hill was part of it and one of the commissioners may have had a question about Petersburg," the county mayor said.

Asked if rejection of the plan was tragic or just regrettable, the county mayor replied, "I think it's just due process.

"That's their right by the 1101 law," Liggett said of Public Chapter 1101 which includes the requirement for a 20-year growth plan.

"When it gets back to the committee it will be discussed and I hope we can get it worked out instead of having to go to the Secretary of State with this," Liggett said.

If there is an impasse that prevents a county from sending a 20-year growth plan to the TDE&CD, then an arbitrator can be appointed by the secretary of state. That arbitration service, however, is done at a cost to the county and its municipalities.

"One or three administrative law judges could be assigned to the case," Liggett said.

A cost figure wasn't available, the county mayor said.

Joe Coble of Chapel Hill is the chairman of the Coordinating Committee. On Wednesday night, he said he'd not been contacted by Smith about the special panel that would meet with the coordinating committee.

Coble wasn't surprised by the vote.

"When you deal with a lot of people, you don't get surprised," Coble said. "I'd heard that it might not pass."

Coble said he was "hopeful" that the coordinating committee could meet with Smith's emissaries before the end of April.