Woods wants fairness in county zoning policies

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The property zoning policy of Carter County created a double standard for some property owners who did not have to abide by the zoning rules of property owners in zoned districts, according to County Commissioner Joe Woods.
   "We have three districts not zoned and two books to go by: One for zoning and one not for zoning," said Woods. "The three districts not zoned get to vote on our zoning, but we don't get to vote or know how their districts are handled.
   "If they're going to zone, they ought to vote the whole county to be zoned and enforce it fairly."
   Woods, 57, will be seeking his second term on the commission in the county's Aug. 1 General Election.
   The plain-spoken Woods said the issue of zoning could best be resolved by a county referendum that allowed voters in each district to vote for or against county zoning.
   "Some people want zoning and some do not and it's hard to decide about things sometimes just by talking," he said. "I think a referendum would solve that problem because it would give the people the voice of what they want, like we did with the wheel tax."
   The county's 2nd, 4th and 6th Districts have opted out of the county property zoning regulations.
   The county's difficulty of attracting large employers was also a major problem, said Woods.
   Like many other commissioners, he also felt the county should look at acquiring additional land for new industrial developments.
   "I think Mr. (Haynes) Elliott needs to start talking to a lot more people," he said. "We need really to get more jobs for the economy."
   Woods also said he was not a "big believer" in raising property taxes every time the county needed new revenues. The county commission approved a 7-cent property tax increase earlier this year after county residents voted down a $20 wheel tax proposal in November.
   The commission's consideration of hiring a financial director was also a smart move, according to Woods. He said in addition to a knowledge of finance and accounting, a financial director needed the right personality to relate with county commissioners and employees.
   "I would like to see someone hired locally," said Woods. "I think we've got someone in Carter County to have that job."
   Woods said his service on the commission's jail and law enforcement committees has also given him a perspective into the county jail's recent problems with overcrowding and flooding problems caused by inmates.
   "I am thinking somewhere down the line, they're going to have to have more built onto the jail," he said. "It is overcrowded and it's just not big enough."
   Woods said one option to reduce jail overcrowding would be to turn away state inmates incarcerated at the jail. However, he pointed out that simply turning out all state inmates was not the answer.
   "That will not solve the overcrowding problem, and then, we would lose money from the state," he said.
   A veteran of the U.S. Army, Woods was a county constable for 10 years. He is married and resides in the Keenburg voting precinct. He said he wanted to continue his service to the county over the next four years.
   "I enjoy being a commissioner and helping the people," he said.