Can we just get all of our readers to join us quickly in saying…
Thank goodness that’s over. Thanks to everyone who kept the comments alive here on AthPo during the meeting last night. We don’t say that enough, but it’s nice to know that we actually have readers, and that they actually check the blog and discuss things during semi-breaking news. (I would also point out that it was pretty obvious that none of you guys had a test at 8:00 this morning.)
Now, here are a few thoughts on the LPDS stuff last night.
It’s been a long and arduous road for Bruno Rubio and his folks, and we’re thrilled that this thing has not only come to an end, but that it’s come to the conclusion that we would wanted to see.
From watching the meeting last night (I stayed up for the vote, but just didn’t have the energy to blog about it at 2:00 am), the thought that I kept coming back to is this:
Everybody involved did their jobs. For States McCarter, he remained a vocal – occasionally rambling, sometimes prosecutorial – opponent of the zoning change. He did his job; he represented what he perceived as the will of his constituents. While we question the accuracy of his 90% opposition number (which seems to have fallen since October), you can’t fault him for taking the stand he did.
For Elton Dodson, his job was more difficult. Dodson himself said that the majority of his constituents probably support LPDS – even Dodson himself seemed to want to vote for the rezoning, all things being equal. Instead, he did his job and represented what he perceived as the interests of the people most directly involved – again, the 8th District. We’ve had our differences with Dodson in the past, and probably will in the future, but we respect his stand, and we definitely respect the obvious feeling and emotion that he put into his remarks. There’s no doubt that this was a tough call for Elton, but we’ve got nothing but respect for the Commissioners that can make those calls.
For the eight yes votes on the Commission, they had a little bit of an easier task. Our impression is that the majority of Athens - outside of the major subdivisions in District 8 – overwhelmingly supported the project. Because their constituents weren’t directly involved to the extent that McCarter’s were, the other eight commissioners could, in good conscience, vote for the project.
Perhaps the best argument we heard was one that we heard for the first time last night. Mike Morris, a local attorney representing most of the parties involved made note of the fact that there was no reason for the Commission to vote against LPDS. The case law, and the relevant zoning law does not contradict the zoning change – a point echoed by District 5 Commissioner David Lynn and others. We think that Morris put it a little harshly when he said that case law and zoning law are the only things the Commission should consider – not, for example the feelings of the commissioners who represent the district, or even the feelings of the residents themselves. But the fact remains that he did have a point.
Be careful though. If the law and the best zoning practices were the only things that should be considered, then why have zoning changes up before the Commission at all? Any proposed zoning changes could be considered and approved by a judge, an arbitrator, or even a decent computer program. The thing is, other factors should be considered. The feelings of the residents concerned should be taken into account, because at its heart, zoning is about communities, and about the neighborhoods that make up our community.
There wasn’t a single member of the Commission last night who didn’t consider the neighborhoods and the feelings that the opponents of the issue so vocally expressed. Those concerns and that opposition were weighed against the needs and the desires of the community at large, and against the relevant law. In the end, we believe the Commission made the right choice, and the east side will be a better place because of that choice.
Penultimately, we’d point out that the Special District Overlay is not going to go anywhere. While the tone of this post is, hopefully, conciliatory, that is one thing that States McCarter and others mentioned last night that caused us to raise an eyebrow. The SDO is good business, and it’s a measure that almost everyone supports. To imply that approval of LPDS is the death knell for the SDO is a little disingenuous. Furthermore, if Cedar Shoals Drive proceeds down the slippery slope that LPDS opponents fear it will, we have no doubt in our minds whatsoever that the residents and associations can rally up to put the kibosh on that, tout suite. LPDS didn’t open the door for more development – it slammed the door in the face of any developer who isn’t willing, from the getgo, to put the time and effort into working with the community that Rubio did. And that’s a very good thing.
Finally, we’d like to extend our most sincere congratulations to Bruno, to Matt Casey, and to all of the LPDS crew. (And, since we’re pretty sure Bruno doesn’t read AthPo, anyone who knows him, please relay this to him.) This was a long time coming for you guys, and most folks would have given up by now. Thankfully, you persisted, and the east side, not to mention Athens as a whole, will benefit. There’s no doubt that Athens would be an even better community than it is if we had more business owners and developers with Bruno Rubio’s drive, passion, vision, moral compass, and willingness to work with the communities they affect.