We aren't much into conspiracy theories around here. Most of the hidden-agenda scuttlebutt stuff is just a little too hard to believe.
But an astute citizen who attended last Tuesday's Columbia County Commission meeting couldn't help but suggest connecting a few dots on the commissioners' unanimous vote to scuttle impact fees.
Just follow this scenario:
-- County Commissioner Lee Anderson, back in July, prevailed upon his fellow commissioners to restore the Appling Courthouse as a once-per-quarter site of commission meetings.
One of the reasons other commissioners previously cited for keeping all meetings in Evans was their brand-new setup for videotaping the sessions.
-- The next meeting was then held in Appling, far removed from the overwhelming majority of the county's population. And that's when commissioners scheduled their vote on hiring an impact-fee consultant.
Such a consultant would have helped guide the county toward implementation of the fees, which are a charge placed on new development as a way of helping growth pay for itself instead of being a burden only to existing residents.
-- That evening, after striding into the room before the meeting and telling a group of builders and developers that they didn't have anything to worry about, Anderson indeed allayed their worries: he made the motion to reject hiring the consultant. The other commissioners tap-danced for a few minutes, and then agreed.
Want to see the discussion for yourself? Well, if you weren't there, you can't. Though the video crew accompanied commissioners to the Appling Courthouse, it seems they forgot a necessary cable. No video of the session exists.
Notwithstanding the dubious coincidences, there are a couple of points that must be made about the commissioners' decision to abandon impact fees:
First, this is the only time in recent memory that the consultant-happy commissioners actually decided not to hire one. Remember: These are the folks who have even gone so far this year as to hire a consultant to help them pick a consultant (for the arena master plan). Yet when it finally comes time to pull the trigger on impact fees, they suddenly have a foxhole conversion to fiscal restraint.
Second, commissioners have provided yet more fuel for the common complaint that the power in Columbia County lies not in the votes of the community, but in the influence from the community of builders and developers.
So, is it all over? Of course not! Just as O.J. promised to search for the "real killer," commissioners now pledge that their new quest will be a push to change state law so impact fees can be used to fund schools. Then, they say, they could actually support them.
We'll believe that tale when we see it.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.