Suwannee Democrat

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January 3, 2014

Democrat says - Listen to the people, Commissioners

Live Oak — For months now, local residents have packed the Judicial Annex Building for the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners’ meetings in an attempt to have their voice heard. The concern of the people has mainly been the “by right” legislation at the catalyst site.

Currently, if a company sought a piece of property at the catalyst site, no public hearings would be necessary since the board voted unanimously to allow businesses to locate at the catalyst site “by right,” which would waive certain requirements companies would have to adhere to, including obtaining county permits. This removed the guard from the gate for Suwannee County.(Proposed companies would still have to obtain all necessary state permits).

In response to the public’s outcry to modify or rescind the “by right” law, County Administrator Randy Harris presented the commissioners with a proposal that would add one public hearing to the process before a company can locate at the catalyst site. The proposal was then approved and sent to the Suwannee County Planning and Zoning Board of Adjustments. That board recommended having two public hearings.

The recommendation by the planning and zoning board will have to pass two public hearings before the county commissioners before it becomes law.

We’re glad to see the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinion. However, with “by right” still in place, our concern is the commissioners do not have the authority to deny or approve a company’s right to site, as reported in our “P&Z board” story on the front page of this edition.

What is the purpose of the public hearings if a decision cannot be made? Isn’t the board supposed to be the “gatekeeper” of the county? Shouldn’t the people have a say?

The commissioners can have a say in which companies locate here. To fix this, they can amend the land development regulations and delete the permitted principal uses and structure section, which is essentially removing the “by right” text.

By deleting the text, companies would then be subject to the special exceptions and special permit process and would restore public hearings with the power to approve or deny.

We say, “Commissioners, do this so the people’s voice can be restored.”

 

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