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County’s planning commission decison still burns city leaders

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

Director of City Planning, Monica Callahan, appeared before the city council on Friday, Oct. 3 to report on the recent Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ (GDCA) designation for Madison as a PlanFirst community last week. Callahan relayed the perks this designation yields to the city, as well as noting how few communities receive this honor. Callahan was bemused by the timing of the award, considering the recent decision of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners to remove Madison from the joint planning commission as of January 1, 2015. “It’s sort of ironic that the city is getting the boot from the planning commission, just as we are receiving this designation as one of the ten best planning communities in the state,” said Callahan. City Councilman Joe DiLetto responded with a hearty “Amen!” to Callahan’s remarks. “It’s just amazing what we get accomplished with such a group of incompetent people,” said DeLitto sarcastically, taking aim at alleged county complaints against Madison’s planning process. Chris Hodges, city council member, is bothered, too, by the coming planning commission split. “I think it’s time for another letter to be written,” said Hodges. “It’s just not right. But we have a great planning staff and whatever we do, we are going to move forward.” ”They should have done a little more research before doing something so drastic,” said Bobby Crawford, city councilman. According to Callahan, although the majority of planning commission models throughout the state are separate between cities and counties, at least one-third are joint. “There are many models, and joint ones do work,” said Callahan. City Manager David Nunn added his disappointment with the decision. “I think it’s a big move and a big change. I personally think it deserved more conversation. It’s a relationship we have had for over 30 years,” said Nunn. “I am proud of the city and county zoning, that we have had for a long time, so just pulling back so quickly without talking about it was disconcerting to say the least.” Mayor Fred Perriman affirmed the rest of the council’s sentiments. “We were all disappointed by the county’s decision,” said Perriman. “We have to find a way to move forward.” Callahan encouraged the city council to take the decision in stride, maintaining that she is perfectly happy to stay behind the scenes, continuing to focus on implementing “effective planning strategies” in Madison, with or without access to the joint planning commission with the county. The city is currently planning to create a planning board of five to seven members of people who, preferably, have planning and zoning experience. According to Callahan, before such a board can be created, certain aspects of the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan must be revised and updated. “We have been working really hard to look on the bright side of this decision that has been forced upon us” said Callahan. “We will not start the way we finished. We are not going to have one single application slowed down because of this,” said Callahan. Callahan recommended the members of the board be diverse, representing the “industrial, residential, and commercial perspectives. Anything less is not a multifaceted perspective,” said Callahan. “We want to be forward thinking and progressive and moving fast,’ said Callahan. Callahan wants to ensure that the Madison Planning Board will have a balance between greenspace conservationists and development-minded people so that “a balanced residential quality of life can be achieved and maintained.” The city is preparing for the next potential split when the BOC revisits whether or not to remove Madison from the joint Building Inspection in January 2015. If the decision is to split, Madison will have to hire its own building inspector for the city. City Manager David Nunn believes this split would be unwise, commenting that “with the size of our community, we don’t have enough inspections to warrant the hiring of a fulltime building inspector just for our city. Having one office for the county makes the most sense, in my opinion.” “The joint model works well,” continued Nunn. “The county keeps all permit revenue and they staff accordingly. For a county of our size, the most efficient model is to have one office.” The City Council deferred to cross that bridge when they arrive at it. In the meantime, the city is strategizing how to best implement its own planning board and how to utilize their newly received GCDA recognition. Callahan reported that over the next few months, the city planners will be exploring how to maximize the benefits of the PlanFirst designation from the GCDA. “We will look over all our options, and decide which grants, loans, and things like that, we can apply for and how this designation will help us in that process,” said Callahan. move forward.” Callahan encouraged the city council to take the decision in stride, maintaining that she is perfectly happy to stay behind the scenes, continuing to focus on implementing “effective planning strategies” in Madison, with or without access to the joint planning commission with the county. The city is currently planning to create a planning board of five to seven members of people who, preferably, have planning and zoning experience. According to Callahan, before such a board can be created, certain aspects of the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan must be revised and updated. “We have been working really hard to look on the bright side of this decision that has been forced upon us” said Callahan. “We will not start the way we finished. We are not going to have one single application slowed down because of this,” said Callahan. Callahan recommended the members of the board be diverse, representing the “industrial, residential, and commercial perspectives. Anything less is not a multifaceted perspective,” said Callahan. “We want to be forward thinking and progressive and moving fast.” Callahan wants to ensure that the Madison Planning Board will have a balance between greenspace conservationists and development-minded people so that “a balanced residential quality of life can be achieved and maintained.” The city is preparing for the next potential split when the BOC revisits whether or not to remove Madison from the joint Building Inspection in January 2015. If the decision is to split, Madison will have to hire its own building inspector for the city. City Manager David Nunn believes this split would be unwise, commenting that “with the size of our community, we don’t have enough inspections to warrant the hiring of a fulltime building inspector just for our city. Having one office for the county makes the most sense, in my opinion.” “The joint model works well,” continued Nunn. “The county keeps all permit revenue and they staff accordingly. For a county of our size, the most efficient model is to have one office.” The City Council deferred to cross that bridge when they arrive at it. In the meantime, the city is strategizing how to best implement its own planning board and how to utilize their newly received GCDA recognition. Callahan reported that over the next few months, the city planners will be exploring how to maximize the benefits of the PlanFirst designation from the GCDA. “We will look over all our options, and decide which grants, loans, and things like that, we can apply for and how this designation will help us in that process,” said Callahan.

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