Trenton's Food City already has "green spaces" in its parking lot. But Fred's (below), built much later, does not. Green spaces are not just "for pretty"--they alleviate stormwater damage caused by all that paving. Trenton's new rule would require one green space per 20 parking spaces.
The world is changing, Reader, and The Planet strives to adjust. Blow-by-blow coverage of local government meetings, for example, was once the staple of community newspapers, but now it is something that this one, anyway, has decided to wash its planetary rings of. Why take the time to write up a cohesive narrative when not that many readers are interested, and when those who are can nowadays see the whole shebangs for themselves without stirring from their recliners, or indeed even lifting their eyes from their cellphones? Practically every public meeting in Dade County is now live-streamed by not one but two local outlets.
On the other hand, one of The Planet’s abiding aims is promoting participation in democracy, and this has been a seriously good couple of weeks for PID. Thus The Planet offers highlights of recent meetings in this brief roundup before going on to bigger and better.
First, the citizens group appointed by the Dade County Commission to brainstorm on changes to its proposed land use ordinance met Tuesday night, briefly and amicably. The committee is made up of citizens Jeremy Dyer of Lookout Mountain, Mike Graham of the Davis Community, Dr. Billy Pullen of Morganville, Tom Tamburello of the New Home community, Allen Townsend of Wildwood and David Young of Rising Fawn.
County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley told the citizens they could meet as long and as often as they liked. County Attorney Robin Rogers, though, who was left to guide the group, proposed a schedule of three or four more meetings, with rough topics assigned to each.
Rogers told the citizens they should aim to reach a consensus but advised them if they could not they should vote on an issue. He warned them that one zoning issue might affect many others and counseled them to keep the big picture in mind. And he gave them their basic mission: "Balancing individual rights with the social collective good." And if all this ain't participating in democracy The Planet would like to know what is. Go zoning committee!
Trenton City Commission
Second, it’s been over a week since the Trenton City Commission held its regular October meeting. The Planet reported from that meeting the significant metamorphosis of local institutions, as in the abdication from the visitors’ center of the undermanned and underfunded Dade Chamber of Commerce. But there was other news from that Oct. 16 meeting:
Notably, the city commission voted to change its ordinances to require businesses with big parking lots, such as grocery and retail stores, to break up their asphalt acres with green spaces and trees. This kind of landscaping, it has been discussed at previous meetings, is not only designed to provide beauty and shade but to mitigate the stormwater ravages caused by all that paving.
(Photo: The new Fred's, built within the past three years, has acres of parking but no trees.)
Mayor Alex Case explained at the meeting that the Trenton rules already required 20 parking places for so much square footage in the store. Now, he said, if a store has enough square feet to require 40 parking places, “You’re going to need 40 spaces and two green spots.”
Streets Commissioner Monda Wilson asked if older stores would be affected or if they could be grandfathered in. Older ones would be unaffected, answered Ansel Smith, assistant fire chief/building inspector; the ordinance would apply only to new construction. Smith said landscapers would use native trees that didn't grow too large.
As to whether the new rules would discourage new businesses to locate in Trenton, Mayor Case says the city does want growth. “But there are stipulations,” he said. “Practically anything that goes in has some sort of impact on the roads and the neighbors.”
The amended ordinance may not radicalize Trenton's look for a few years yet, but the little city is growing and the new rules may well keep it from growing into one more unbroken parkway in the vast interstate highway exit that America is in danger of becoming. The Trenton City Commission, and those who attend its meetings, will know whom to credit for the change: The Dade Tree Hugger:
Jennifer Blair, pictured here co-hosting one of the Dade Public Library's "green series" programs, was dubbed the Tree Hugger by Dade County Commissioner Allan Bradford when she was working with him on a county recycling initiative. She attends most county and city commission meetings--"Boredom is the building block of democracy," said The Planet, and it became an adage-- and works with both commissions toward environmental goals. In the case of the city ordinance, Ms. Blair started with a petition and then worked politely and patiently with the mayor and Ansel Smith toward implementing the change.
Ms. Blair's victory with the ordinance may seem to her a little green drop in a big plastic bucket, but drops are the building blocks of oceans and as Lao-Tzu observed, journey of thousand miles starts with one small step.The Planet will shut up before it mixes any more metaphors or butchers any more timeless Eastern wisdom, but Ms. Blair's feat was an example of participating in democracy that The Planet was not fixin' to pass over without comment. Go Tree Huggah!
The city commission decided to change another city ordinance regulating brush pickup. The new size limit for brush is four inches in diameter and no stumps will be collected. "We can't handle it," said Streets Commissioner Monda Wooten. Mayor Case pointed out that city residents are allowed to burn their brush as long as they have a permit from the Georgia Forestry Commission. One may be had by going online to gfc.state.ga.us.
Former Trenton Mayor Gene Carter participated in democracy, or at least participated in the Oct. 16 meeting, to ask for an honor for Clarion (pronounced Klaren) Kyzer, whom he described as Trenton's first fire chief.
(Photo: Gene Carter is flanked by Lucretia Houts, left, the former city clerk now running for fire/utility commissioner, and Christy Smith, Trenton's flaxen-haired police chief.)
The former mayor wants the city commission to memorialize Clarion Kyzer with a plaque on the fire hall, and in order to explain why he gave what he called "a brief history of Trenton." He described a 1950s Trenton town square with one restaurant called The Busy Bee, patrolled by one cop called Hot Rod. When the Case building on the square caught fire, said Carter, Clarion put it out with an old fire engine he'd bought with his own money. “That’s what saved Trenton from burning,” said Carter.
"We’ll get to work on it," Mayor Case said of the plaque. Commissioner Wooten remarked that Clarion's other great contribution to the town was his son, present-day Fire Chief Jerry Kyzer. Nope, said Carter, he knew them both and Clarion was the better man, which he'd tell Jerry to his face.
In other business, the commissioners learned that two households in North Dade wanted to participate in Trenton, especially in the sewer. The commissioners discussed annexing the homes in the Lake Hills area, which would entail holding a meeting to zone the area and possibly adding a streetlight. The commission approved $9000 in engineering work for the sewer extension. Fire/Utilities Commissioner Jerry Kyzer said it would all be new work and thus the cost could be covered with SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) funds.
The commission also approved $3115.50 in SPLOST to buy Stalker radar units in cooperation with the Georgia State Patrol and the county.
And Marshana Sharp, manager of the Dade County Public Library reminded all that this Saturday, Oct. 26, is the library's annual Trick or Treat on the Square event. Festivities start at 5:30 p.m. inside the library and also, depending on the weather at this point, out on the town square.
She also pointed out there's still time to come by the library, get a free carving kit, buy your own pumpkin and bring it back to enter in the library's jackolantern contest. Just have it in by noon on Saturday.
That's it for the city meeting. But before sinking below the horizon, the Planet will note that at the Dade Water Authority's Oct. 22 board of directors meeting--the same day as the zoning committee's, awkwardly for Dr. Pullen, who is on both--the board decided to double the leak insurance premium water customers pay in order to double their leak cost coverage. It's only the difference of about two dollars as opposed to about one dollar, and customers who notice it on their bills and don't want to pay it are allowed to opt out. But assistant water company manager Sherri Walker advised against alerting the customers in advance lest they opt out without the benefit of learning the benefits of the policy.
Board Chairman Eddie Cantrell said no offers had yet come from the two executive sessions it had held earlier in the month about selling the wastewater plant it had never meant to own in Walker County. If one does emerge, he said, the board will call enother such session. The board acquired the sewer in 2011 after a luxury housing developer it had agreed to partner with--during an early-2000s meeting uncovered by any local press--went bankrup during the housing market collapse.
That's it for this month's water board coverage and if participation in democracy was not mentioned The Planet urges the reader to make no untoward inference therefrom.