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Residents give input on county comp plan

Lafayette County officials held the first in a series of public forums designed to gather community input regarding the county’s development of a comprehensive plan.

About  50 people packed into the Yocona Community Center Thursday evening to hear planning consultant Mike Slaughter of Slaughter & Associates inform those in attendance what a comprehensive plan is, as well as the elements of a comprehensive plan. He also wanted to reiterate that a comprehensive plan is not a zoning ordinance, and it is not a land development code.

“We want to make sure this is the people’s plan, the county’s plan,” Slaughter said. “Growth is going to happen if we really want it to or not. We want it to be sustainable development and positive change.”

Slaughter used a PowerPoint presentation and went over the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan, the land use plan, transportation plan and community facilities

Supervisor Kevin Frye hosted the event and was pleased with the turnout.

“I believe very strongly we need to plan for the future,” Frye said. “The expectations are that we will have another 15-17,000 people here over the next 20 years. Change is going to happen when growth happens and will continue to come out to the county. My position has been we can either let it happen to you or plan a head and manage things responsibly.”

Residents had several questions for Slaughter, ranging from zoning to county policy and land use to building codes.

Several residents voiced concerns that the comprehensive plan will lead to zoning in the county. Resident Carl Sealy was one of those who believe zoning is inevitable.

“You’re setting a precursor for when zoning comes by designating certain areas for certain types of development,” Sealy said. “If you’re going to feed us a pill and we taste it, we know what it is. If it’s bitter we spit it out. I understand (a comprehensive plan) is not setting into law at this time, but what we determine with this comprehensive plan will probably be used to greatly influence the zoning when it happens.”

Frye said he understands community concerns regarding zoning. By law, zoning cannot occur without a comprehensive plan. The county has had a comprehensive plan since 2008 and has not set zoning laws.

“Once the plan is in place, we will have a conversation about zoning,” Frye said.

Other residents voiced concerns about the impact of building codes. Currently, the only building codes in the county are in subdivisions and commercial development.

Other topics of conversation dealt with job creation, incentives for small businesses, workforce training, need for public transportation, agriculture development, more public recreation and parks and affordable housing.

The purpose of the town hall meeting is to gather input from the community prior to developing a county policy, according to Slaughter.

The next town hall meeting is set for Monday night at 6 p.m. in the Philadelphia Community Center. The Oxford Conference Center will also be the site of a public meeting on Thursday of next week, also at 6 p.m.