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Magnolia Trace issue attracts a candidate

Posted: February 1, 2012 - 12:02am  |  Updated: February 1, 2012 - 1:49pm

ADDENDUM: We've now learned that under the new districts drawn for Columbia County Commission and School Board, Damon Cline's residence is in District 1 - not District 2. See the linked story for details.


Theoretically, we could say the first drop of the other shoe for opposition to Magnolia Trace came this weekend when Damon Cline, who works at Georgia Health Sciences University, tossed his hat in the ring for the Columbia County Commission District 2 seat.

He’s also a former newspaper colleague. It’s a small world.

Cline for years has lamented the demographic deterioration of Columbia County, particularly the urbanized area of Martinez where he lives. And like many of his neighbors, Cline really was set off by the Magnolia Trace project.

Never mind that we now know commissioners couldn’t have done a doggone thing to stop the federal-government-enabled “affordable housing” private development now under construction off Old Ferry Road. Some of the neighborhood’s residents are still looking for blood, and Trey Allen happens to represent the district where this latest high-profile us-vs.-them dynamic played out.

Allen also was at Ground Zero for another drama before Magnolia Trace. That was when many of the residents of his neighborhood, Springlakes, fought against Augusta Prep putting lights on its ball field.

The Springlakes homeowners have been at war with each other over the compromise reached in that case (which Allen opposed), but for the most part their politicking has been limited to trying to oust their own neighborhood association’s leadership.

Cline’s challenge to Allen puts a face to the Magnolia Trace opposition, though he’ll have to expand his horizons a bit to appeal beyond the neighborhood’s single burning issue.

A model for such activity would be former County Commissioner Diane Ford, elected exactly 20 years ago this year. Before she ran for office, Ford was a community activist with fairly narrow interests that focused specifically on problems within her Windmill neighborhood in Evans.

Ford managed to parley her community efforts into three terms on the county commission, retiring in 2007 after having been firmly established as a reliable representative for her district.

Ford was replaced by Charles Allen in 2008. Two years later, Allen, along with Trey Allen and Chairman Ron Cross, was one of three sitting commissioners who voted in favor of the meaningless, yet unavoidably meaningful, “affordable housing” resolution that started the Magnolia Trace ball rolling.

Retired from the commission, Ford now works as a secretary for Doug Batchelor – the county attorney who actually was working for the Magnolia Trace developers when he invited Cross and Trey Allen (whose district encompasses Magnolia Trace) to hear a pitch from the developer.

Columbia County is a small world, after all.


Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)

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Comments (3)

Concerned in CC

The commissioners could have done something

"Never mind that we now know commissioners couldn’t have done a doggone thing..." Yes, they could have done something. They could have insisted that the county-hired attorney who was leading this developer to them and probably getting paid a fair deal step down as county attorney as it was an obvious conflict of interest. They could inquired into the company a bit more. They could have raised some red flags about Ben Harbin's donations by the developer. Trust me, if this were to be built in their back yard, they would have done something!

Damon Cline is a breath of fresh air. Being a journalist, he surely knows in this internet age that people can get access to information. Information = power. Goodbye Trey Allen and Ron Cross! If they don't get rid of Doug Batchelor now, they are endorsing his conflict of interest.



I, too, disagree that the county could have done nothing. That's an absolute statement and those are usually wrong. The bigger point is the county didn't even try. Yet, we go to all measures keeping apartments out and limiting the number of units allowed per foot.


So He Can't Run Now?

Trey Allen made it a point to inform the county where Cline lives. Cline should rent somewhere in the district. He would be a shoo-in, cinch, slam dunk and lock. I will absolutely never forget that monumental Commission meeting. I'm so glad I was there. It was historic for the people of Columbia County taking on the entrenched politicians.