When it comes to rezoning, I believe that several of our Hall County commissioners operate with too much power, too much secrecy and not enough concern for their constituents. The Nov. 30 vote on the Mixon farm at Union Circle and Union Church Road in Flowery Branch is ample evidence of these problems.
Certainly, the Mixons have the right to sell their property. Certainly, development is inevitable, but it should be responsible development as outlined in the county's Future Growth and Development Plan. The commissioners ignored that plan when they voted for this high-density development, which does not fit the existing character of the community.
The commissioners also ignored the 1,024 residents who signed a petition against the proposed development. Then the commissioners proceeded to vote although they'd never given area residents access to the developer's updated site plan.
Those of us who live nearby will have to live with the consequences of this bad zoning decision: declining property values, an overwhelmed infrastructure, increased pollution and the irretrievable loss of unspoiled habitat for native wildlife.
Last but not least, we'll have a traffic nightmare when the new Cherokee Bluff Middle School opens next year. The developer neatly sidestepped that issue by emphasizing that the traffic study was done during the school year, as required. Yes, it was, but the study was outdated. It didn't include the new traffic that will clog Union Circle and Union Church when approximately 800 to 900 students join the throngs every morning and afternoon.
Elected officials should advocate for their constituents, not for developers whose motivation is profit instead of the good of the community. Commissioner Shelly Echols wisely voted against this high-density development, and Kathy Cooper recused herself. The other commissioners (Powell, Stowe, and Higgins) voted for it, ignoring the obvious wishes of the community.
If the only accountability that the commissioners have is to the voters, and if we're left in the dark, their actions go virtually unchecked. However, we do have recourse. If certain commissioners don't represent us well, we can vote them out in 2022. Meanwhile, we can investigate anything that doesn't pass the smell test.
Please pay attention, because your neighborhood might be next.