Will IDA Rush In Where Angels Dare to Zone?

Old vehicles moulder gently into rust at multiple locations throughout fair Dade. Landowners cherish their right to let 'em--but IDA worries junkyard after junkyard may scare off potential investors.

The February meeting of the Dade Industrial Authority (IDA) on Monday was largely preoccupied with the matter of replacing IDA's inimitable director, Peter Cervelli. Cervelli, who has been at the center of Dade economic development since there was economic development in Dade, has announced he's slipping the yoke.

So IDA board members spent much of the Feb. 26 meeting adjusting their timetable for interviewing prospective successors. They decided in the end to have all resumes in by April 1 and final interviews wrapped up by April 15, to give the new hire time to work with Cervelli in May before he shakes the dust.

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be dust-shaker updated the board as to IDA's current businesses: Gill Industries is looking for space, he said. Vanguard complains that its stop sign keeps getting knocked down. "It's a state problem," he said. "The city's handling about it."

Cervelli said he was still considering bids for signs to direct truckers to the Vanguard railroad crossing, both Vanguard's own trucks and those going to the older part of the industrial park. "If they don't want to get blocked by trains, that's the only way," he said, referring to a longtime problem to all in Dade who have occasional need to traverse the railroad tracks that bisect the county. He said a $5000 grant from Top of Georgia might help subsidize the signs.

Member George Nelson asked if the new signs will be designed to coordinate with "William Back's group." Back spoke in November to the Trenton City Commission on behalf of Scenic Dade Development, a group Nelson was sponsoring to come up with attractive signs for Trenton-Dade attractions.

"These are functional," said Cervelli. "The others are functional but high-quality design-wise."

IDA hears from JDA's Keith Barclift, bottom left corner of table. Proceeding clockwise around the table are director Peter Cervelli, attorney Robin Rogers, members George Nelson, Larry Case, Doug Anderton, Chairman Nathan Wooten and Sharon Moore, with bookkeeper Caitlyn Casey.

Member Larry Case agreed that perhaps the functional signs should coordinate with the high-quality-design-wise ones: "If they're going up for a very long time, they ought to look good," he said.

Cervelli also touched in passing on what information he would leave for his successor, as well as the obvious question at this fateful juncture: "Where should we go down the road?"

But he said little about where precisely that might be in the public part of the meeting, though he noted: "Some of this I'll talk about in executive session today."

The group did go into executive session for some time, but announced nothing upon return for the benefit of press and public.

The board during its regular session heard a presentation from Keith Barclift of the Northwest Georgia Development Authority. Barclift offered IDA an upgrade to its website for $1500, through participation in JDA's umbrella program, and subsidized by another grant from Top of Georgia, which he explained was its nonprofit arm. IDA voted to try it for a year. The upgrade will make more local information more readily available for prospective investors researching Dade on the IDA website.

The meeting was all but over when George Nelson brought up a concern: A business associate was interested in buying acreage on Highway 11 South, Nelson's own stomping grounds, where he has established his Southeast Lineman Training Center, which brings hundreds of new and hungry young people to eat at Dade restaurants, rent Dade lodgings and buy gas at Dade gas stations three times to year. Nelson said he worried the potential investor would be put off by the area's vista of "a junkyard on the left side and a junkyard on the right side" of the road.

IDA Chairman Nathan Wooten agreed that Dade's many such eyesores might in fact negatively impress those thinking of buying in. "I think it's time to bring it to a head," said Wooten.

Trenton has an eyesore ordinance, pointed out Wooten, then asked Trenton City Commissioner Jerry Henegar, who happened to be in the audience: "Jerry, could we get a copy of y'all's ordinance?"

Ordinance? The Planet asked Wooten after the meeting adjourned. Did he mean a land-use ordinance? In the unincorporated county? As in the dread Z-word, "zoning," such unpopular syllables with voters that canny Dade politicians fear even to utter them aloud?

"I don't know that it's zoning," said Wooten.

But if people want to invest millions, said Wooten, does Dade really want to scare them away with acres of garbage? "If you're going to have all that stuff out there, maybe you should put up a fence," he postulated.

Will the owners of Dade's vast acres of vehicular cemeteries in fact consent to veil them from the passerby's tender sensibilities? Will IDA, unelected but able to grant tax dispensations and issue bonds like a local government, succeed in zoning a county that has scathed and scarred many an elected leader who ventured to suggest it?

Time will tell--and The Planet will duly pass it on.

IDA meets at 3 p.m. the fourth Monday of each month in the Dade Administrative Building. The next meeting is on March 26.

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