Citizens vent zoning frustrations

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com
Prior to voting on county-wide zoning, the public was invited to the Carter County Commission meeting for a public hearing on the matter. Citizens packed into the courtroom, patiently waiting their turn to speak.
Citizens from the 1st District began the hearing to voice opinions on a motion made to rescind zoning in Stoney Creek.
Retired Marine Corps Maj. Freddie Taylor, addressed the full commission first and repeated opinions he voiced during a public forum at Unaka Elementary School. "Every time we have this debate I have asked and I still have yet to have someone come forward and provide an argument to why they are against zoning, citing some problems they have with the zoning that we have passed."
He added, "To this date, unless Chris can correct me, we still have not had anyone come forward and provide some justification and some complaint that zoning our district has caused. We live in a democracy. Yes we do. We also live in a constitutional republic. You as commissioners are elected by the people to represent them, yes, but to do what is in the best interest of this county."
Lewis Taylor disagreed with zoning in Stoney Creek and supported removing it. He said, "I have been against zoning because it takes some the rights away from us. This is just the beginning of you taking more of our rights away from us and pretty soon we're going to be in trouble. They haven't said what zoning is going to cost us."
Roger Rice said, "I moved to Elizabethton in 1958. I left here in '64 and came back 12 years ago. In the time I was gone, I was able to be president of four corporations, two of which I owned myself."
Rice spoke of his experience in locating his businesses. "What I have here today I would have got up and walked out the door and not even listened to it. All I have heard here today is arguing about what we are going to do about rezoning something and how we are going to do it. Not what is best for the county. Not what is best for the people and not what will produce more jobs," added Rice.
The commission voted 10-12-1 to remove zoning from Stoney Creek later in the meeting. The motion failed because a two-third majority vote was needed to adopt it.
The next public hearing involved adding zoning to Districts 2, 4 and 6 to complete county-wide zoning.
Nancy Brown spoke against zoning, saying she attended both public forums at Cloudland Elementary and Hampton Elementary Schools and believes the public needs more education about the topic. She also said wealth is a key factor in making sure certain ordinances are adopted. "If you ain't got money, then your vote don't count. And that's how I feel. There is no sense in this. When we vote somebody in, they ought to stick behind us."
One man disagreed with how he found out about zoning because he said he didn't receive adequate notice. Mike Murray stated, "The reason a lot of people are upset about this is that we feel that we have been blind-sided. These kinds of things have a tendency to divide people. All of a sudden, it's 'you live in that neighborhood and we live in this neighborhood', and before you know it, people who have been good neighbors and friends for years can be enemies, and that is a great tragedy."
Maxi Jones Guthrie argued in favor of zoning because she felt she needed more protection. "There are the best people in the world living in Roan Mountain. But the only thing is that we do have to have some protection. The only time you can prevent anything is before it happens. Once it happens you cannot prevent it."
Darrell Harmon said, "Who put you into office? We're the ones who will put you out in the future if you don't do what the people says, and if you don't carry the majority of the vote, then you won't carry it the next time either.
"I think that all the people who wants the industry that's fine, but you do not have to have it zoned to get industry. Carter County has some of the best people in the world until you get them mad. Now when you get 'em mad it could be a different situation. But I say leave the people alone and let them control their own property."
After the public hearing, the commission voted 15-8 to add zoning to Districts 2, 4 and 6.