Originally created 03/12/98

Residents fret future of Georgia's northwest corner



TRENTON, Ga. -- Richard Rothman thinks Georgia's scenic northwest corner is one of the prettiest places on earth. Some Dade County residents fear the recent sale of an 803-acre tract on Lookout Mountain means development soon will threaten that beauty.

Southern Pine Plantations of Macon expects to close in May on its contract to buy the land along the western side of the mountain on the Georgia-Tennessee border.

The timber company's owner, Benjy Griffith, said Wednesday he has no plans to clear-cut the land, as some residents feared.

"We haven't had time to sit down and formulate a plan" for the land, he said. "But I guarantee you it won't be clear-cut."

Still, residents fear the purchase is the beginning of a development trend in Dade, which nestles in a scenic triangle along the Alabama and Tennessee lines.

"It is a siege -- unplanned, haphazard growth," said James Mackay, a former congressman from the Atlanta area who retired to Lookout Mountain and has been active in promoting and preserving it.

Mr. Rothman, an Atlanta architect and planner who also owns a home on Lookout Mountain, is lavish in his praise for the area's beauty.

"When I come across Taylor Ridge on drives from Atlanta, I am always impressed," he said. "I never dreamed the scenery would be as emotionally satisfying as it is. There is not a more beautiful place on the earth than this corner of Georgia."

The upcoming sale of the 803 acres is the second large property sale on Lookout Mountain in recent months. Extensive holdings of Ed and Mark Drummond were auctioned off in tracts and lots last November, generating huge interest from potential home builders.

Mr. Griffith said his company, which is buying the 803 acres for an estimated $1.2 million, may harvest some timber from it or may simply sell it.

"That wouldn't be a bad tract for the state to look at buying, if the people think it has that much value," he said.

Dade County officials say they are working on a plan for controlling the area's growth. But the county currently has no land use plans or zoning laws on the books.

Local economic development leaders have promoted the area to oustiders but agree that some protection is needed.

Dade County's natural treasures are "God-given and should be preserved," said Buddy Simpson, a local businessman.