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Triple S hears concerns with comprehensive plan

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Public wants to maintain agriculture

By Scotty McDaniel

Noting the economic recession, representatives from a trio of local organizations were in attendance to express their concerns at a public hearing Tuesday about the development of Shelby County's new comprehensive plan.

Their united focus was clear: Let's maintain Shelby County's agricultural base and not overrun it with residential, commercial, or industrial development.

The goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan must be reviewed every five years. This update covers 2010-30.

During the past several months, this process has taken shape. There were three public input sessions in November, with more than 100 people attending the sessions and offering their ideas on the direction in which they'd like to see the county move.

Workshops were held with governing bodies to get feedback, and a committee was formed to complete the goals and objectives based on the feedback and information received in the prior months.

Tuesday was the public's last chance to discuss those goals and objectives before the Triple S Planning Commission votes on a final version.

Vivian Hayes represented Shelby Area Rural Conservation Inc., an organization recently formed to preserve farm and rural property in Shelby County.

"While other economic sectors in Shelby County are in a deep recession, Shelby County's agriculture is shining with its diversity and economic contribution to the county," she said.

"We all should be concerned whenever agricultural lands are converted to uses that produce lesser returns to the county."

Sharing similar concerns, Alex Dreager spoke to the commission on behalf of MORE (Maintain Our Rural Environment).

"In this time of economic recession Shelby County agriculture is a bright spot," she said.

That's why MORE requested that the commission delete an objective that stated: "to promote upgrading of existing and the creation of new north/south and east/west collector and arterial streets in Shelby County."

Dreager said MORE opposes the idea of carving up the county for commercial, industrial and residential development.

"This grid approach would destroy our rural character, harm our farming activities, and diminish our agro-tourism potential," she said.

For further protection of the county's agriculture, she asked that the language used in two other objectives be changed.

She said those objectives could be used as residential growth in rural areas and asked for explicit text limiting the concept to urban areas.

She also brought up a goal about which the public clearly had been adamant during its input process: maintaining an agricultural zone 40-acre minimum, That was the top concern from the public at all three meetings.

Tuesday, Dreager and others asked that this target specifically be incorporated into the goals and objectives.

In response, Triple S Executive Director Ryan Libke explained the planning process. He said the goals express the general needs of the community, and the objectives are more specific ways of achieving those goals. But there are elements that support the objectives.

Maintaining an agricultural zone 40-acre minimum is an element, he said, and elements would be reviewed specifically after the governing bodies adopted the comprehensive plan's goals and objectives.

"That's when you get into the real meat of the plan, and you start bringing out a lot of these issues about how to discourage the conversion or division of agricultural land," he said.

The commission will take the input from Tuesday's public hearing into consideration and have an opportunity to change the comprehensive plan if it sees fit before voting on the goals and objectives at its meeting on June 16.

That's when commissioners would decide whether or not to recommend the comprehensive plan to Shelby County Fiscal Court and the cities of Shelbyville and Simpsonville for their consideration, amendment and adoption.

The governing bodies would have 90 days to take action on the plan.