Coming into government service from private business, County Commission Chairman Ron Cross makes a good point: If a private company has a business model that isn't working, it will quickly make adjustments.
Government is often just the opposite. That leads to frustration for such officials when the wheels of change grind too slowly to keep up with market conditions. When there is a perceived need for change, the ability to react is often hindered not only by the bureaucratic quagmire but by the need to reach consensus among disparate groups.
Key to reaching that consensus is getting all sides to agree that a change is necessary. Last week, Cross and some officials finally understood that not everyone believes changes are needed to allow bigger commercial projects in some areas than currently allowed by the county's detailed development blueprint.
This all started with a battle over whether to allow a big-box commercial development near the Furys Ferry and Evans-to-Locks roads intersection. A developer wanted a change in county rules to allow a larger Kroger store in the center; many nearby residents, fearing the rapid commercial development of their neighborhood, were hotly opposed.
Commissioners ultimately compromised on a slightly larger store than the residents wanted, but one that was significantly smaller than the store the developer sought. It looked like the issue would end there, until county planners began moving toward a change in the Growth Management Plan that would allow the bigger store anyway.
In some respects, the Growth Management Plan is the county government's equivalent of private industry's business model. But unlike private industry, it can't be reworked without lots of input -- which includes getting a consensus that change is needed.
To his credit and that of other county officials, Cross acknowledged last week that such a consensus doesn't yet exist. As a result, changes to the Growth Management Plan will be shelved until a comprehensive review of plan takes place next year, as scheduled.
It is devilishly hard to stay ahead of the growth curve in a county as fast-moving as ours. Growth and its effects are often an irritant for long-time county residents who see continued encroachment on their way of life, even though many of them were once new here, too, and failed to yank out the welcome mat when they arrived.
The time-tested way of dealing with growth is a long-term approach, one that strikes a compromise between residents who want their property values and quality of life protected, and developers responding to demand for their services.
The county's Growth Management Plan, while still imperfect, is a good vehicle for striking that balance, and county officials were right to hold off on amending it ahead of schedule. Even if it doesn't seem like the way a private business would operate, it's the right way to run a government.
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