To the editor:
I am writing in response to a recent letter and several comments in the "Citizen Poll" regarding state Rep. Doug Holt's proposed legislation affecting how courts interpret local zoning laws and decisions. Unlike earlier respondents, I support Holt's actions and believe they are in the best interest of the citizens of Newton County. Like most municipalities, Newton County and the city of Covington maintain Future Land Use Plans. These plans provide long-range direction on which areas of the city/county are targeted for rural, residential, commercial, or industrial development.
Having and following a Future Land Use Plan benefits citizens in a number of ways:
The county or city can pinpoint infrastructure investments like roads, water and sewerage, and other utilities in those places where development is targeted. This avoids wasted investments and also better ensures needed infrastructure is there before development outstrips the existing capacity. (It is ironic one caller critical of Holt's plan also complained about having to "wait for 100 cars to go by before I can get out of my driveway," since proactive land use planning and enforcement are the best ways to avoid traffic woes.)
Citizens looking to buy a home in a particular area of the city or county can consult the Future Land Use Plan to understand what the surrounding areas are likely to become in the years ahead.
Property owners are given greater protection from having incompatible developments that are outside the boundaries of the land use plan from suddenly encroaching on their homes.
Land use planning, zoning, and zoning appeals are not, as some have suggested, a form of government evil imposed from above. These are elements defined, implemented and overseen by regular citizens who serve on the planning commissions and zoning appeals boards that exist in the county and most of our cities.
When we, as citizens, invest time, money, and energy to establish land use plans and zoning that will meet the long-term objectives of our community, it does none of us any good to see them arbitrarily overturned in our courts. It makes the land use plans meaningless, it leaves all of us exposed to unpredictable growth and development, and the lawsuits cost us tax money that could have gone to the roads and infrastructure that would make our communities more livable.