Utter lack of sense of community, vision

Published 6:21pm Tuesday, October 2, 2012

To the Editor:
I left the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) commissioners/public meeting on Sept. 17 feeling a complete and utter lack of sense of community and vision. There were lines drawn in the sand, disrespect, rudeness, shouting, accusations and many misinterpretations/allegations/generalizations regarding the proposed UDO document. There was no evidence of working together to amend or improve this working document so that it can do what it was designed to do – set a direction of growth and development for this county as envisioned by our community, via a public survey, a few years ago.
The opposition group aggressively wanted the UDO stopped, period, as they believe it steps on their individual rights and future job opportunities. The UDO is a tool that can help us reach the goals set forth in the Polk County 20/20 Vision Plan. As stated in this plan, how can we “aggressively” protect our resources, our water and steep slopes/mountains, without any ordinances, rules, or plans to do so? That already happened with the Chocolate Drop development and how did that work out for us?
And why should we want to have regulation and rules over the protection of these things? Because these physical, irreplaceable assets “describe” our county, they belong to us and they are our community’s responsibility to take care of them for our own benefit and good, especially if we want them to remain for our children’s legacy.
We did not step up to the plate with any oversight or regulation before when Chocolate Drop exploitation occurred, and the “facts” are that the state DENR stepped in for us and mandated that an engineered erosion/sedimentation control plan be implemented by the developer and there was no compliance with that, so the state sued for irreparable damage to the citizens and their waters (sediment into waters is a major pollutant). Chocolate Drop did not have to happen and could have been prevented if we had been intentional/thoughtful planners and had the UDO in place.
We do not need to be complacent or combative/argumentative in our duty to be good, responsible citizens in our community and stewards of these God-given gifts. What we give back to our local resources in the way of protecting and restoring them will come back to benefit us threefold. If we have protective ordinances in place we show that we, as a community, value and understand the importance of these assets to Polk County.
Further, adoption of the UDO does not take away the jobs or negatively affect the local economy. Quite the contrary. Clean/healthy waters, intact forests and mountains make us a “destination” for tourism and outdoor recreation and this could provide the opportunity for significant economic growth (recreational users’ dollars) for our county. It could create local jobs such as tourism service jobs, erosion control monitoring positions (paid by a nominal tax assessment from the recreational users), more carefully designed grading site projects (clear water grading contractors) and building opportunities, in-the-field jobs to implement the protection/ restoration projects on the Green River and Lake Adger and workers to repair the infrastructure to the Turner Shoals dam, build a water treatment plant and maintain our more frequented roads.
The UDO is not a perfect document and probably needs some revisions and amendments so that it is tailored to meet our needs or expectations (see alternative energy wind farms or non motorized recreational trail use businesses) but it does serve as a valuable, visionary and progressive developmental road map that can lead us, as a community, toward a successful future.
Certain Polk County leaders and their constituents need to move our community forward, with a shared vision, and not divide, mislead/incite the public that this UDO document is attacking our “liberties and rights.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
– Sky Conard, Mill Spring

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