Originally created 08/31/99

Rezoning opponents speak out at meeting



THOMSON -- After six weeks of battling the Thomson-McDuffie County Development Authority, Damon David finally broke down Monday night.

"Every night, the earliest I've been to bed is midnight," he said after a public hearing on the authority's request to rezone more than 643 acres for industrial use. "I had to come out tonight."

Mr. Davis, along with his wife and nearly 300 other McDuffie County residents, filled a courtroom at the McDuffie County Courthouse to debate the request, which will be voted on at 10 a.m. Wednesday by county commissioners.

If approved, the industrial park would cover both sides of Georgia Highway 150 -- commonly called Cobbham Road -- to just north of Stagecoach Road. The development authority already owns part of the land and has a contract to purchase 396 acres for $2.1 million from the Stone family.

The authority will purchase the land even if county commissioners deny the rezoning request, said Winston Oxford, executive director of the authority.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Mr. Oxford said.

The land is perfect for an industrial park because of its proximity to Interstate 20. And if nearby residents would put emotion and personal feeling aside, they'd see that, Mr. Oxford said.

"There is not a man, woman or child who did not know about this hearing," he said. "Consequently, everyone who is against this rezoning is here tonight. I represent the other 23,000 who are for it."

But residents -- who had approximately 1,600 signatures against the rezoning -- offered a compromise.

"Mr. Oxford, you go and get me 1,600 signatures on a petition for this and we'll sit down and talk," resident George Goodman said. "We'll have 10,000 signatures by then."

The residents believe the industrial park would destroy their rural lifestyles and the surrounding environment. That's not worth 100 or even more jobs that would be created at park, they said.

"What good is a paycheck if you can't breathe clean air, you can't drink clean water and you have to use it to pay expensive hospital bills?" resident Paul Bue said.

Residents encouraged commissioners to consider the impact of creating an industrial park in an area zoned largely for residential use.

"The No. 1 issue here is not the almighty buck," said Mickey Chamineak. "It's what God wants us to do: take care of our families."

Jason B. Smith can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.