Joint Comprehensive Plan 2018

The City-County plan is a great way to get some insight into how our city and county leaders are thinking.  Some of it’s great.  Some of it is not.  And a few pieces reveal some plans they probably didn’t expect to be discussed yet.  This is by no means a complete review of the plan but this list of some of their goals will give you an idea of how they see our future.

2018 Joint Plan  <– click to open

“Explore options to mitigate school traffic on the west side of town.”

They purposefully built every school on the same 2-mile stretch of road. Traffic surprises them now? Almost every school in the county plus the BOE office plus the transportation depot are on that street, one without a traffic light on either end.

“One group in the city and county that is steadily growing is the retiree community. “

Then why in the world do they think “encourage walkability” is a desired goal? None of the retirement community wants to walk around despite what vitamin commercials may have you think. College students want to walk to one place: the bar. That’s why their housing is built within staggering distance of downtown.

“Develop additional in-town bike and pedestrian trails.”

How about keeping bicycles out of the way of cars? You know, the ones who pay the gas and vehicle taxes that pay for the upkeep of those roads they so desperately want to carve up so a dozen people can be seen working out. Hunky McShortypants can ride his bike somewhere else while the adults drive on the paved streets and highways.

“Review regulations that pertain to ridesharing options.”

Let’s force taxi companies to pay for cab licenses, have yearly inspections, and so forth, while we invite another company to hire any random slob to drive people around in his personal car with zero oversight. They’re dispatched with a phone app so it’s got to be a progressive move!

“The community needs to alleviate existing and prevent new areas of blight.”

Here’s the nugget they hid in the document!   “A land bank is one instrument by which communities can purchase and clean up blighted properties to prepare them for eventual reuse.”  Ohh, no. They aren’t buying anything. They’re going to fine them into submission and then seize the property they want to redistribute.

Some other random goals they have:

“Monitor growth along the Oconee River Greenway to discourage incompatible land uses.”

“Seek funding for additional phases of the Oconee River Greenway.”

Price tag: 50 MILLION dollars. They sure think a lot of what’s basically some grass next to the river. They’re pouring huge sums into it for what?  They need to increase law enforcement presence where they are first.  Some parts of the Greenway are dangerously isolated.

“Construct a community swimming pool or splash pad.”

It wouldn’t be a $2 million expense if they hadn’t bulldozed the old one in a pre-dawn sneak attack.

“Pursue additional funding to create more staff positions to ensure adequate enforcement of county codes.”

And you wondered how one person would enforce the IPMC?

 

Mr. Tobar Meets the NAACP

Mr. Tobar addressed the NAACP meeting this week.  I must say, he has the delivery of his “medicine” carefully concealed among the “sugar” of his other promises.  It’s easy to see how he drifts from county to county, blasting the IPMC into place and then moving on to another area filled with hicks too ignorant to know how to live among high society.

a fried egg
Mr. Tobar uses what I call the “fried egg” approach: he mentions only the sunny side of his plan.

First we were told the story of how he grew up in San Francisco with 9 siblings.  He even pointed out that them living in that house would be illegal under the IPMC.  In true California Liberal fashion, he’s ok with that paradox.  People need the government to tell them how to live because clearly we’ve been doing it wrong here in Baldwin County for the past 200 years.

He promised the people of the Harrisburg community that they would be getting new basketball courts, a bike trail and speed humps along Harrisburg Road, and many more improvements to make the area kid-friendly.  That’s the sugar part.

The IPMC was then introduced as the friend of the renter.  That’s right – it’ll force landlords to fix leaky pipes, rotten floors, and heaters.  He left out the other things like how flaking exterior paint or missing window screens mean diddly-squat to a low-income renter.

When rusted trailers were mentioned directly to Mr. Tobar, he said that the whole section on oxidation had been removed.  Well, it’s still in the county’s document, highlighted in yellow as one of the changed items.  It may not apply to owner-occupied structures but it still applies to renters:  exactly the ones they hoped to target.

“All metal surfaces subject to rust or corrosion shall be coated to inhibit such rust and corrosion, and all surfaces with rust or corrosion shall be stabilized and coated to inhibit future rust and corrosion.”

Trailers from the 1970s and 80s were metal.  Nobody lives in those today for the fun of it.  They do so because they’re the most economical place to stay that isn’t in a homeless shelter or under a bridge.  Just to get to the NAACP meeting he had to drive past several dozen trailers that would not pass this section.  What are those tenants supposed to do when their homes are deemed illegal?  The trailer park owner isn’t about to go purchase 50 new mobile homes!

Mr. Tobar and Mr. French were also asked how we can be sure that enforcement by complaint won’t be weaponized against minorities and the poor.  They were quite adamant that “it wouldn’t be used that way” but why write anything in a manner that you don’t plan to use?

Trailer parks in desirable areas will be the first targets.  Developers can’t wait to get their hands on the large parcels of land to, as Mr. Tobar spelled out, “get rid of the trailers and build regular homes in their place.”  That’s well and good but the people who lived in the trailers will not be able to afford the houses.  What happens to them then?

The whole IPMC fiasco is happening for two simple reasons:

1) A few rich people don’t like seeing people live differently than they do and they desperately want that land for themselves.  How dare someone tinker with cars or not make lawn care their top priority!  That’s how so-and-so did it in the Army and now everyone else should too.

2) There are 4-5 properties in town that are overgrown and/or have abandoned buildings on them and the commission is convinced this is the only way to do get rid of them.  Is it?  Not according to the legal review of the existing ordinances, but that’s a subject for a later date!

 

State of the IPMC

The county commission is working very hard to push the public image that they’re trying to make concessions and work with those who are against giving up their property rights.  They made the items pertaining to interiors of houses apply only to rented properties.  They decided that you’re allowed to have “inoperable” vehicles in the yard if you can’t see them from the street.  Now we’re all on the same page, right?   Ha!

Current draft of the unified code << — click to open

The commissioners still have not given a clear, concise answer as to why they believe the current code is unenforceable.  Why?  Because they can’t figure out a politically-correct way to say “it doesn’t let us control appearances.”  It’s not about public health and safety;  it’s all about making money for a few influential investors.

The revisions still include their goals of “Attracting Jobs Through Superior Landscaping.”   Ok, they didn’t name it that — I did.   They still think that you should be forced to keep your grass cut even if you live way out in the country.  100ft in all directions is a huge and arbitrary area to keep cut all to please people who don’t live there.  And then they’ll keep a straight face when they tell you that will attract employers and jobs.   Never mind an educated, work-ready workforce — companies seek manicured lawns from county line to county line!

“Section 302.4 All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or grass allowed to grow to a height greater than 18 inches on the average, or any accumulation of dead weeds, grass, or brush that may provide safe harborage for rats, mice, snakes and/or other vermin which are within 100 feet, excluding wooded areas, to an adjacent dwelling. Excluded are ornamental grasses in landscaped areas of properties.

Upon failure of the owner or agent having charge of a property to cut and destroy weeds after service of a notice of violation, they shall be subject to prosecution in accordance with Section 106.3 and as prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction. Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the jurisdiction or contractor hired by the jurisdiction shall be authorized to enter upon the property in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the costs of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property.”

 

How’s that for over-reach?  You can live in the boonies on 20 acres but they still want to dictate how your grass is kept.  It’s even worse for people who live on small properties.  That 100 ft. radius is likely larger than the whole property.  That means every square inch of the yard has to be kept like a golf course.  When you don’t, the same people who can’t keep our rights-of-way cut more than once a year will hand you a bill for doing it for you.

 

I say the first place we hold to that standard should be Lockerly Arboretum.  Any flowers, bushes, or non-native plants there that aren’t cultivated should be mowed down within 30 days or the county should do it for them.   I want to see a 100 ft radius of nothing but manicured grass around every structure on the property.  If that sounds absurd, it is no more so than making the rest of the county’s residents do the same.

They’ll now graciously allow you to have an “inoperable” vehicle in the yard as long as you hide it under a cover or in the back yard.  It’s not their yard but they just can’t stand that you might have a hobby they don’t approve of.  Notice there’s nothing in there about junky boat houses or rotting docks or inoperable golf carts.

Lumping the most restrictive conditions on rental properties still continues the master plan of outlawing poor people.  If the homes they rent are declared in violation and the property owner isn’t willing to spend thousands of dollars just to make hundreds of dollars in return, the property goes off the rental market.  That means the people who lived there have to move — but where?  The puppet masters pulling the strings of our commissioners don’t care as long as they move somewhere else.  Our whole county is a country club dammit, and anyone who doesn’t want to live that way just doesn’t deserve to live here.

 

The proposed code is still about one group of people dictating how everyone should live.  They know what’s best and they can’t wait to force it onto everyone else.  The more indignant they can act the more certain they are that their way is the only way to live.  You should be thrilled to give up your rights under the premise of “public good.”

The Meeting of 4/3

We learned two major things from the meeting this week.

Apparently some people are in a hurry to get this thing passed.  They see no reason for deliberation or debate.  The county needs to tell people how to live and they need to do it right now!  Not everybody keeps their properties the same way these people do and they should be forced into it!  Forget rights — this is about conforming!

Gary Spillers wants the county government to bulldoze all trailer parks and anything else that he feels ruins the ambiance of the luxury properties he builds.  Get those lower income people out of his way!

Watch the Fox24 news story << Click to view

Let’s start with Mr. Spillers first since he really takes the cake.  He’s got plans for a $14 million hotel across from the former Georgia Power Plant Branch.  He’s also big into developing college student housing complexes.  For some reason he thinks everyone has the money he does, or the money those college places charge parents to shove as many students into a unit as they can.

Now he wants our government to force cheaper housing options out of the areas he wants to build.  That would allow him to swoop in and get them at a fraction of their actual value and he could build even more luxury housing in their place.  Where the displaced people would live is none of his concern!  He just doesn’t want to have to see trailers on the way to his lake getaway — never mind that those places were there first!

Then there are the speakers who wanted the commissioners to quit debating and vote.  It’s almost scary how they just want “something” done for the sake of saying something was done.  It’s the same 3-4 people at every meeting using the same (pre-arranged?) phrases like “Parents teach children to clean up after themselves.  Now as adults they should do the same.”  The difference is simple:  the adults own these properties and have a legal right to the private enjoyment thereof.

That’s really the crux of the issue:  should people have to give up a right in exchange for making another group of people happy?  Some of the speakers last night sure think so.  The problem with giving up freedom is that it never stops there.  It keeps getting eaten away until one day you find you have none left.  A car in my neighbor’s yard is none of my business.  Tall grass in a neighbor’s yard is none of my business.  Whether his plant is considered a flower or a weed is none of my business.  Why?  Because it’s not my yard!

You would think that the capacity crowd in the commission chambers plus the 30+ more people in the hall would paint a clear picture:  The more people find out about what is on the horizon the more they’re against it.  Several speakers (including a couple of long-time local business owners) commented that they just found out about the whole thing and are convinced that the IPMC is not right for our county.  We here at NO_IPMC couldn’t agree more!

(Picture from Fox24 – wgxa.tv)

Dear Mr. Barlow:

You wish to lecture the community on the importance of “difficult decisions” from the comfort of your luxury home deep inside a heavily-restricted community.  You’re so isolated from the commoners you despise you probably haven’t seen a Jehovah’s Witness in years!  You want to live among carefully manicured lawns and shrubs free from any appearance of someone having interests or hobbies that might conflict with their neighbors aesthetic values.  Well congratulations:  you already live there!

“While it’s true that property owners have rights within the boundary lines of the property they work and pay taxes to maintain, so do their neighbors and other local residents who must view their property.”

Totally untrue!  The owner of a property has NO obligation to make others happy with its appearance.  People have zero rights to land they do not own.  If there is not a situation that threatens the safety or health of the public then there is no actionable issue for local government.

 

“We mustn’t lose sight of the bigger picture and the fact that dilapidated homes and unkempt properties are breeding grounds for crime and illicit activity and oftentimes, other residents have their hands tied with limited recourse with regards to safety in their own neighborhoods.”

Everything you mentioned is already against existing ordinances.  They just refuse to enforce them.  The current laws carry fines and legal actions.  You don’t even have to go look them up;  we referenced them right here just a few posts ago!  If you want to get fired up, go find out why they aren’t using the tools already at their disposal.

 

“The goal was never to infringe upon the rights of property owners, but instead to ensure the rights of everyone in the community by enabling them to live in clean, healthy neighborhoods. “

 

If that wasn’t the goal, they sure nailed it anyway!  So they’re only going to take away “little rights” from property owners?  Only a “few” of them?  Where do you draw the line at giving up rights to your own property?  It’s always termed a “necessary good” every time someone else loses their freedom.

 

“Then, they must make the hard decision. That’s what leaders do. Baldwin County officials must lead on the IMPC issue by adopting this policy in order to move the community forward.”

 

To paraphrase Dr. Phil, that is interpreted as “Ignore everything else I said.  Now I’ll say what I really mean.”    To you, “real” leaders dictate to their constituents.  They don’t vote in a manner consistent with the opinions of the people who put them in office.   They tell the ignorant masses how to live in high society.  Well guess what?  Those same people can put them right out of office and can force a public referendum to get the IPMC repealed.   Remember those “loud objectors?”  There are enough of those ready and willing to submit the petitions required to make that happen.  Just like your last pet project (consolidation), the IPMC has no place in Baldwin County.

We know all too well the business school principle they teach that people will be mad for a while and then interest will die down.  If that’s what you and the commissioners are expecting this time, you’re in for quite a surprise!  No sir, they really kicked the hornet’s nest this time.  The more people find out about what the IPMC contains the more upset they get about being tricked by their representatives.

Don’t lecture to us about people who live in homes valued at 1/100th of your own.  You lack the proper perspective, just like Mr. Westmoreland in his lake home or Mr. Craig with his 37-property portfolio.  I can’t include our county manager in that list;  he hasn’t even moved here yet!