Originally created 06/04/99

Majority of panel don't live in city



A majority of the developers and engineers on a committee that helps forge recommendations on crucial subdivision standards -- such as whether concrete curb and gutter or raised-edge asphalt should be used in new developments in Richmond County -- don't live in Augusta.

Six of the nine members live in upscale Columbia County subdivisions, such as West Lake, or in Burke County, although they do business in Augusta.

At least two have offices in Richmond County, according to planning commission records.

Builder Oliver Owens; Mark Herbert, president of Herbert Homes; James W. Ivey, president of J.W. Ivey & Associates; Nathan Youngblood, chief operating officer for Nordahl Realty; and Don Holley, of APAC-Georgia Inc. live in Columbia County.

David Hargrove, of James G. Swift & Associates, lives in Burke County.

David Simoneau, engineer with Southern Partners Inc.; Rick Toole of W.R. Toole Engineers Inc.; and Pete Fulcher live in Richmond County.

The committee on subdivision regulations is made up of 18 people, nine from government departments, such as planning and zoning and public works, and nine from the building industry.

The city has no formal residency policy concerning such boards, but Augusta commissioners have said more than once they want only Richmond County residents on boards making recommendations on issues affecting the county.

For example, in March 1998 when the board was discussing appointments to a committee that would make recommendations on an in-house law department, several commissioners said the members should be from Augusta.

"In reference to boards and authorities we should utilize people locally and not go outside the county," Mayor Pro Tem Lee Beard said then.

Commissioner Freddie Handy said, "Out of 78,205 total in Richmond County I know we can find more people that lives in Richmond County that does not live in Columbia County to put on a committee."

Augusta commissioners didn't appoint the subdivision regulation board. It is a holdover from the Richmond County government, according to Planning Commission Director George Patty.

In recent weeks, the subcommittee has split over the issue of raised-edge asphalt curbing versus concrete curb and gutter, with the developers favoring the asphalt and the city's engineers recommending concrete curb and gutter.

On Tuesday, the debate between the developers and city engineers raged on at the commission meeting with no resolution.

Commissioners sent the issue back to the committee. But this time, a few homeowners will be added to the mix.

Mayor Bob Young plans to appoint three members of neighborhood associations to the subcommittee today.

Meanwhile many commissioners and builders just wish the curbing issue would go away.

Mr. Herbert said he feels the builders wasted four years working on the subdivision regulations, giving advice for which the city could have had to pay.

"We've been a big activist in affordable housing, trying to promote it and keep things as affordable as possible," he said.

"Their figures saying it (concrete curbs and gutters) costs $400 or $500 more are not true. By the time it gets to the homeowner that $400 is about $1,000 to $1,200. They can't seem to understand that initial cost gets magnified two or three times, and every time you raise the price of a house $1,000 you knock out a tremendous amount of buyers.

"Everybody don't drive Cadillacs or Mercedes, but they don't seem to understand it."

Sylvia Cooper covers Richmond County government for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.