If you live in Columbia County, I should think that you have noticed where the new Lowe's Hardware Superstore is being built. Yes, bulldozers, barren dirt landscapes and asphalt are now considered signs of the "new Columbia County."
I think our government officials are too-short sighted to see that Columbia County is well on its way to look like suburban Atlanta. The growth they are encouraging sucks the charm out of a place like Evans and replaces it with eight-lane highways, four-hour rush hours, seas of parking lots and no natural aesthetics.
Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't have any growth. I would just like commissioners to consider smart growth. Things like using natural building fronts only, like wood and brick, no neon signs, mixed use development, an ordinance against any future big box retailers, and enforcing a maximum of parking spaces make a community special. Look to places like Portland, Ore.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Burlington, Vermont; or closer to home, Athens.
Also, commissioners have talked about finding Columbia County's "identity." They wonder, how do we get it on the map? How to make it unique? Well, letting national retailers and food chains turn the Evans/Martinez area into every other suburban town in America is not the answer. Consolidating just to make Columbia County the fifth largest city in Georgia is not the answer. Bringing the wrecking ball to the old country stores and structures is not the answer. And certainly, knocking down a mature pecan orchard for a Lowe's and keeping two tiny crape myrtles planted by the Exxon gas station is not the answer.
The answers are investing in the unique Southern rural culture that was already here. We can make Columbia County famous by having restored farmhouses come back as B&Bs, having a permanent produce market, being a safe and walkable community and being the best place to grow up in America.
It is not hard to make Columbia County into someplace very special. In fact, it was.
Michael J. Ryan, Evans
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