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Posted: August 19, 2014 10:29 p.m.

2050 Plan survives challenge

The controversial 2050 Plan took a beating Tuesday night from the Newton County Board of Commissioners, but it was still standing at night’s end.

But the minimum lot sizes so reviled by eastern county residents are officially gone, and the county’s form of government might – just might – follow right behind.

Commissioner John Douglas plainly called for the plan’s death in a speech during the work session before Tuesday’s council meeting, calling the plan “unworkable, unwise and unwanted.” Oh, and “unfixable.”

“We must stop spending time and money on it and move on to other issues facing this county,” he said, adding that he would not appoint a member to the proposed citizens’ panel in hopes that “by withdrawing much of east and south Newton from participation, it will deal a fatal blow to the whole thing.”

But Commissioner Levie Maddox beat him to the punch in the regular meeting, making a motion to direct county planners to unite the county’s zoning ordinances into a new “draft baseline ordinance” that incorporates the guidelines regulating the 2050 Plan. He said too many people spent too many years working on the plan to simply discard it.

“We can put any color lipstick we want on it, but it’s still the 2050 Plan,” Douglas said.

In the end, commissioners Lanier Sims and Nancy Shulz joined Maddox in supporting the motion, with Douglas and J.C. Henderson voting against.

But Maddox mollified any hard feelings immediately afterward by making a motion that demanded in no uncertain terms that the 10-acre lot minimums in the proposed “rural” districts and the 20-acre minimums in the “conservation” districts be removed from everything forevermore. Period.

That motion passed unanimously, to much applause.

The evening began with a presentation by outgoing County Manager John Middleton about the costs incurred by the county from payments to The Center, the group tasked with coordinating the 2050 Plan and designing the baseline ordinances. He presented records only for fiscal years 2013 and 2014, with a total of $27,429 in 2013 and $50,761.54 in 2014 paid directly to the company.

The county also paid attorney W. Thomas Craig $39,402 for his work on the plan in fiscal year 2013-2104 and planner Scott Sirotkin $13,674.25. In comparison, Middleton said, the pair earned $18,018 and $13,487 on just the Brick Store Overlay District.

In the current budget, a total of $45,000 has been set aside for the plan.

Replacing Middleton, who will retire at month’s end, will be Tom Garrett. But the commissioners voted 3-2 to hold a workshop to determine the county’s future form of government for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26.

Voting against the motion made by Maddox were Henderson and Douglas, who argued that a week is hardly enough time to determine if the form of government – which features both a full-time manager in Garrett and a full-time chairman in Keith Ellis – should be overhauled. He made a substitute motion, which failed by the same margin, to instead hold a workshop Sept. 18.

The problem is that Middleton leaves Sept. 1, Schulz said. Waiting until Sept. 18 would leave Garrett in “limbo.”

“There needs to be some clarity in our organization,” Maddox said.

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