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Zoning is the next step for Lafayette County

By T.J. Ray

A congratulations banner would be appropriate across the balcony of the Chancery Building. The Board of Supervisors voted to create zoning in Lafayette County. This follows over two years of meetings and meetings and more meetings, which took place all over the county. Everyone was invited to offer his or her opinion of this new way of doing business around here.

Perhaps a bit of history may help to underscore the significance of the decision those five men made. Almost exactly 10 years ago, an earlier Board had started the process that concluded last Thursday night. Consultants had prepared a Comprehensive Plan with public input, that plan being requisite to the implementation of a zoning ordinance. The night of the final vote on the matter saw a courtroom full of folks. While a few spoke passionately of the need for zoning, more spoke more strongly against it. In the end, there was not a vote to move forward. Frankly, faced with the formidable opposition to zoning, it becomes easier to conclude that they gave citizens what they wanted — no zoning.

The recent meeting was an awesome contrast to that bleak night a decade ago. For one thing, the boardroom was full but probably a fourth of the size of the earlier one. The process began with a continued public hearing, one of almost 30 that have taken place in the last two years. If anyone had an opinion that someone did not express, I would be surprised. During some of those hearings, folks raised questions and concerns about zoning. It smacked of too much government, of boards telling honest folks how to manage their own property. One last chance to argue against a new approach to land management in the County. The few people who did speak voiced approval of the new code.

Until today almost any kind of project could be launched around here. Yes, there are some subdivision regulations and some commercial constraints on development, but taken as a whole they at times were not of a nature to prevent something popping up in a neighborhood that soured the happiness of the people who already lived there. No one sets out to build a home or a business and one day face the prospect of a next door endeavor that might sour the neighborhood and devalue what has been built. Now the County is in a position to consider all developments with the guidelines of the new code.

Will there be glitches? Bet on it. Will there be tweaking of the language in the code? Almost certainly. Those five votes were not cast by men with crystal balls and magic wands. Those who passed up the chance in 2008 read the signs and chose a different conclusion. One can only hope that the five sitting in the boardroom in 2028 will not have reason to undo this effort to make the fastest growing county in the state of Mississippi a whole lot better organized than it has been till now.

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.