Smart Growth sees controversy
A public hearing on what has become a controversial county comprehensive plan, termed by some a “Smart Growth” plan, encountered tough negative opposition on Monday night at the Picayune High School auditorium.
About 90 residents gathered to hear about the plan from county officials and approximately 17 voiced negative comments on the proposed plan.
The plan is being compiled by Camp Dresser & McKee, Inc., (CDM), of Gulfport, a consulting-engineering firm that has offices not only in Gulfport but throughout the nation.
A few spoke twice.
But it was obvious from the first when the lines began forming at the microphones that it was an anti-plan crowd, and if there were anyone there who favored the plan, they did not speak out or up.
George Carbo, a planner with CDM, is compiling the study. Also on hand on stage to field questions were county administrator Adrain Lumpkin and Reginald Oliver, a planner with the Pearl River Co. planning and development dept.
Lumpkin said there would probably not be anymore public hearings and that the report would be put into a final draft for supervisors to consider. He did not say when that would be. Supervisors next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, May 24, at 9 a.m. in Poplarville.
There were no comments favoring the comprehensive plan or supporting supervisors efforts to adopt it.
Only one supervisor, Hudson Holliday, showed up for the hearing, and opponents of the plan repeatedly congratulated Holliday for showing up and for voting no on a May 3 decision made by supervisors to pay CDM $143,000 as a partial payment on what is termed Phase II of the planning project.
Supervisors at their May 3 meeting voted 4-1 to pay CDM the partial payment. Holliday was the only one voting no. Those who spoke on Monday night criticized supervisors for their votes to pay for the study and for not attending the Monday night public hearing.
Comments by opponents of the plan here on Monday night ranged from “a communist socialist manifesto plot,” charged resident Larry Waggoner, to Jeff Smith of Picayune, who said his research revealed to him the “Smart Growth” idea, or planning process, emanated from a proposal from the United Nations that President Clinton adopted through a presidential order.
He said he believes the implementation of a plan is “unconstitutional.”
Carbo told the group that he understood that the term “Smart Growth” might have been the wrong way to designate the study, but he added that the study he is now conducting is attempting to incorporate what supervisors and the people of Pearl River Co. want.
For instance, he said supervisors had told him that their No. 1 priority was to make sure that residents control their homestead so that it can be passed on or used to construct family dwellings on it.
Several who spoke used a talking point publication entitled, “Transforming America: Sustainable Development: The Destruction of Your Rights; Creating Crisis, Shortage and a Police State.”
However, Carbo said that statement or publication did not represent what he was trying to put together for supervisors. Both Carbo and Lumpkin told the attendees that the comprehensive plan did not hold the force of law and was only meant as recommendations to supervisors, who would have a final say in anything proposed.
However, some of the group told Carbo and Lumpkin that they did not believe them, and that they believed the comprehensive plan could be morphed into anything supervisors wanted. They indicated they believed anything adopted would eventually be used to deny them their property rights.
Said Kevin Burr, who described himself as a student and small businessman, “It is a living document. It can be changed.”
Carbo said outright that the supervisors had directed him to remove the designation of “Smart Growth” from the comprehensive plan.
Here is a representative sample of comments at the hearing, which lasted 2.5 hours, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.:
Lumpkin: “This has been going on since about 2006. We are in Phase II. . .Tonight we are trying to get some constructive criticism to put into the plan and refine it and help make it work.”
Carbo: “We are not trying to force anything on anybody through this plan. It is a policy document that helps set the goals for the future of the county. . .One of the things that was in this plan, but the board of supervisors stressed very strongly that it had to be put up front as the first goal, is that residents of Pearl River Co. will maintain the freedom and right to build homes for themselves and their families. The ability to homestead has been the basis of growth throughout Pearl River Co.’s history. The board wanted to stress that that is still in the county’s future.”
Pam Allen asked Lumpkin the origination of the study. Lumpkin: “It came from the county. It was suggested by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), through the state, after Hurricane Katrina. That was because PRC did not have a comprehensive plan at that time.”
Brenda Huff: “There is so much housing here right now that people cannot sale their homes. We have plenty of housing. . .Smart Growth is a war against rural development with single family housing with acreage. They (residents) will have no right to determine what they can do with their property… It has nothing to do about economic development. What it has to do with is control. ”
Larry Waggoner of Henleyfield: “I am actively against this so-called ‘Smart Growth’ plan, which is more accurately called a government take-over plan. This is an attempt to seize control of private property by government to grant the control of that property to other bodies and other individuals. . .No thank you. This is not a communist nation and we will fight you on these principles. Anyone who has not read this document should. It is straight out of the socialist and communist manifesto. This is unbelievable and I wish our supervisors would have had the guts to be here tonight. If they have a lick of sense, they will back up and say this is a bad idea from start to finish. The only issue is what do the residents of Pearl River Co. want?”
Shawn Huguet: “Can you assure me that this plan will not infringe on my property rights?”
Lumpkin: “The plan as written now will not. It is a plan; it is not an ordinance.”
Kevin Burr asked what happened to the CDM Smart Growth PRC website. Carbo said that the company took it down because supervisors told him they did not want any reference to Smart Growth in the plan. “We did not maintain it (the website) because the county has said that they do not desire to have what is referred to by many as Smart Growth. They (supervisors) are agreeable to what is referred to as a comprehensive plan, but as many of you have been saying the Smart Growth can be different, much different, than what Pearl River Co. desires.”
Carbo continued: “One thing the board directed me to do is to remove the term Smart Growth from throughout the document. The board as a whole directed me to do that because they did not desire to have a Smart Growth plan.”
John Sones: “I am 85 years old and I have never seen anything like this. My main objection is that it was not generated by the people. Put it on the ballot and you will find out whether or not we want it. I worked for the government for 30 years and I have seen hundreds of these plans and I have never seen one that benefited the people more than it did the planner.”
Zack Allen identified himself as chairman of the Pearl River Co. Libertarian Party: “Many of us see things like the takeover of the health care system, and see it as a socialist administration, and now we look in our own backyard. . . This is obviously a contentious issue. I think the smartest thing to do would be to put it to a vote to the citizens of the county. I urge it be placed on the ballot. If that is not done, we will recruit Libertarian candidates to run for these offices and try and reverse it.”
Jeff Smith: “Smart Growth originated in a United Nations Convention in 1992 in Rio De Janeiro under Agenda 21. . .Through an executive order it was implemented by President Bill Clinton. It was accepted by the U.S. as soft law and was never ratified by the U.S. Senate as a treaty. It was accepted by the states to get the grants. So the whole thing is based on three unconstitutional acts. . .The Smart Growth Guidebook was produced by the American Planners Assoc. with a $2 million grant from HUD. It’s the cookbook to which these plans are written. It lays the foundations for all the future options with the force of law. It even has model laws to help supply the accurate language. . .It will be updated and will match this guidebook. Miss. Law requires a comprehensive plan before you can zone, so it’s not a quantum leap from a comprehensive plan to zoning. Why would we want a comprehensive plan if we don’t want zoning?. . . Someone has asked, ‘Is the board of supervisors going to have complete control over this thing?’ They don’t answer because they don’t know.”
Frank Egger: “I know we have got to have regulations and rules. I don’t want someone to locate a chicken farm or pig farm next to my place. But you can go too far. When you go too far and once that signature is on that piece of paper it’s very hard to get it changed.”
Gary Stinger of Savannah community: “You have made some assumptions that we want all kinds of industries and all these businesses to move in here and that we people of the community want all this growth to happen. I don’t know about anyone else in here, but I moved to Pearl River Co. because I wanted to live in a rural community. If I want to live in New Orleans or Gulfport, I will move there. I like driving to my job. I don’t want my job in my backyard. When I get off work I want to go home. I have to work out of my home now but that is my choice. I understand that Smart Growth won’t let you work from your home. You will have to go rent an office.”
Lavern Guy, a former city councilman and a Picayune businessman, urged the county to include in its growth plan the proposed Hwy. 43 four-lane improvement to connect with old 43 at Exit Four. He said that would relieve the concern by residents concerning running the 43 By-pass up to and connecting with Exit 6. He said he favored that proposed route to Exit Four because it would provide additional commercial development that would help Picayune generate sales tax revenue. He said over 50 percent of Picayune’s budget is based on sales tax rebates from the state.
Supervisor Hudson Holliday: “If they had termed this ‘Dumb Growth’ we would not have this problem. But these people really found a way to make money. This is a slick deal. You all (CDM) will get about $787,000 for a plan that is really worthless. It doesn’t fit here and you know it doesn’t. . .The old board gave them $300,000 to do a study. That study was about three-quarters of an inch thick. Mr. Carbo himself said it was not worth the paper it was written on. But they did not offer to give us our money back. It’s grant money but it’s our tax money. This board voted to give them $487,000 to do a plan. I have not seen this latest version. . .The United Nations is not taking our rights away; we’re doing it right here. As a supervisor I don’t want the responsibility to tell you what you can do with your land and I assure you I don’t want the ones who follow me to have that power and responsibility. . .These public hearings were supposed to be held on the frontend not on the backend. . .Every study that the government ever does or pays for winds up in more government control. . .Not everybody believes the way we do. There are more people in Wal-Mart than there are right here. I voted against paying these guys. CDM is a big company, and I think if your company, Mr. Carbo, has any integrity, they would give us our money back.. .”