Choose smart growth

Back in 2005, when Columbia County officials and experts were crafting an update to its Growth Management Plan, participants at a public meeting were asked to rank, by priority, 10 ideas on how the plan should be reshaped.

By an overwhelming number of votes, residents said the top priority must be "finding the right place for multifamily housing, industrial and commercial development."

The people have spoken. Columbia Countians want smart growth.

And a proposed development adjacent to the new Blanchard Woods Park isn't it.

A rezoning request put before the Columbia County Commission in November asked for 27 acres to be cleared for commercial development, and about another seven acres for professional use.

When nearby residents caught wind of that, the owners -- Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard, Joe E. Blanchard and Billie June Morgan -- scaled back their request. They took the seven acres off the table, and now ask that the 27 remaining acres be rezoned professional.

Hopefully, this request will be withdrawn altogether.

The most compelling reason is because the request doesn't mesh at all with the county's Growth Management Plan or zoning code. It meets no criteria for approval, and the county's planning commission rightly voted to deny the request.

Of course, the county commission can go against the planning board's recommendation. But why would it? If commissioners go against the growth plan, why even bother having one?

The plan is in place to make sure that the county can grow intelligently while maintaining the quality of life residents enjoy. The last thing Blanchard Woods Park needs is exposure to increased noise, traffic and unsightly suburban sprawl that is sure to come if this rezoning is approved.

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