Tuesday night's decision by the Columbia County commissioners (to grant an alcohol license to Rhinehart's) was a sad and embarrassing night for representative government. It proved that our elected representatives were not willing to follow their own plainly worded zoning regulations and did not wish to represent the citizens they were elected by.
Ironically, this was done the same night citizens were voting in the Georgia primary. The citizens most directly affected by the proposed new Rhinehart's location (corner of Owens and Belair roads) did a lot of work and research, which was presented to the commissioners. This research should not have been needed at all, since C1 zoning states that any business at this location must not attract patrons from outside the "immediate neighborhood," which is, by anyone with a reasonable understanding of the English language, the "immediate neighborhoods." Jeff Browning, the director of planning and development, along with all the commissioners, agreed by their vote that in their minds "immediate neighborhood" is defined as the entire CSRA.
They also decided that the petitions provided, which clearly proved the overwhelming majority of homeowners within 1 mile of the proposed location, did not matter. By all accounts this decision was made before anyone entered the room. The debate held was a show for all the citizens of Columbia County to give us a feeling that we actually had a voice in our government. They checked the block of having a open discussion on this issue, and then went right ahead and did what they wanted to do, and not what they were elected to do. Another backroom deal made good!
By making this decision they clearly have set the precedent for all our neighborhoods in Columbia County.
Our director of planning and development clearly interprets "immediate neighborhood" as the entire CSRA. By their decision, the Commissioners agree with him. Your Columbia County neighborhoods are not safe with this type of decision-making or representation. This is a small county, and we need to take it back from people who don't want to represent us. Let's vote in some people who would actually represent us.
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