The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners took final action on the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan at its meeting on January 19, 2016. A complete discussion of the Plan explaining the basis for the actions taken follows.
The founders of our nation believed in decentralization of government power. By design, the residents of towns, cities, and counties were given the primary authority to make decisions that affected their local communities. With advances in communication and travel technology, a push toward regional planning for those two sectors was inevitable and even desirable. Unfortunately, government has a natural tendency to expand its authority beyond the scope of what is reasonable and constitutionally allowable. Making certain that a highway passes smoothly from one county to another is fine. Forcing the aesthetic and philosophical desires of the few in one county onto the citizens of another is an abuse of power and a limitation of individual freedom. This is especially true when the decisions are made by regional councils consisting of representatives from multiple counties who are not subject to electoral recall by the affected county’s citizens.
Origins of the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan
Most of the elements of the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan can be found in the Region A Toolbox, a 228 page booklet by the Mountain Landscapes Initiative, a subsidiary of the Southwestern Commission (see also OptIn Opportunity Initiative). The Toolbox was designed to be implemented by all seven counties in the WNC region “governed” by the Southwestern Commission.
The Region A Toolbox proposes extensive control over every imaginable aspect of life, specifically, restrictive zoning for building appearance and uses of private property, medians and roundabouts to impede traffic flow, zoning restrictions on building and access road placement, slope ordinances, house height restrictions to prevent breaking the tree line, cluster housing, stream setbacks, substituting public transit for vehicle use in townships, pedestrian and bike pathways instead of roads, zoning regulations to limit private property rights, and eminent domain abuse.
The basic Cherokee Tomorrow Plan was created and written by professional town planners whose goal is to fundamentally transform our county so that it will, eventually, conform to their model of perfection. These planners live and work outside our county, have no roots here, and lack a first-hand understanding of the philosophy of our residents. Moreover and in spite of what they claimed, we did not invite them to come here or to write any plan for us.
After arriving with the basic plan already written, a few small changes were made based on several local meetings with pre-set, guided scripts at which the attendees were shown pictures of Norway and Sweden as examples of the ideal appearance for Cherokee County.
Of the 458 responses to the questionnaire, 361 consider Cherokee County as their primary residence and 16 are listed as part-time resident/property owners. There is no verification of either claim, and other important demographics (age, education, employment status, etc.) are missing. The number of people who responded to the questionnaire represents less than 2% of the population of Cherokee County. Because adequate demographic data is absent and so few people responded, from a statistical standpoint, the questionnaire is invalid, meaningless, and cannot be and should not be used to represent the desires of Cherokee County voters and taxpayers as a whole.
Another critical point, the questionnaire only allowed a respondent to rank the relative importance of each project as part of the entire “approved” scheme. At no point, could a respondent say “I don’t want this project done, should be done by private industry, already being done just fine,” or make any other objection. In other words, this is a “Guided Questionnaire” in which the answers can only fit the desired outcome of the persons who composed it.
Examples of Proposed Projects
Some initiatives would require zoning regulations to promote “beauty” and “aesthetics” based on the outside planners’ definition of what looks good and what does not:
3. Encourage site planning that respects the natural topography and avoids mass grading where feasible.
8. Develop guidelines for the Highway 74 corridor that encourage aesthetics and quality growth.
Translation . . . Professional planners will determine for you the location, size, height, color, and style of your building, and they will also make decisions for you such as what trees can be cut, how many trees you need to replace, how you grade your property, and how wide the creek setbacks are required to be. All so your building doesn’t conflict with Nature.
In addition, planners aim to eliminate, limit, or regulate the appearance of fast food restaurants, businesses, and billboards along Highway 74 . . . Who determines the “Quality” in Quality Growth? Obviously, not the property owner.
These plans would require government control over the physical appearance of your home or business. For example, where on your property buildings can be located, what items are allowed to be visible in your front yard, and what you are allowed to do on your own property. These regulations would require a significant increase in the size, power, and cost of local government.
Other projects would require seizing private property by eminent domain abuse:
28. Complete a continuous recreational trail from Andrews to Murphy
30. Study the long-term feasibility of reacquiring the railroad right of way to reconnect Murphy with Mineral Bluff, Georgia.
32. Improve the airport by extending the runway to 6,000 feet in length, creating a passenger/crew lounge, extending public water service, and upgrading to an all-weather instrument landing system.
These projects envision a direct assault on private property rights, not to mention enormous costs.
Details on one example:
Complete a continuous recreational trail from Andrews to Murphy.
There are 191 parcels of private land along the Valley River. The land alone is valued at $28 million. Assuming that most of the property owners would choose not to sell, the land for the recreational trail would have to be taken forcibly from the property owners by eminent domain.
The Bottom Line
After reading and studying the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan, my conclusion is that it is not a “plan” at all. It really is a series of objectives and goals presented without any specific blueprint or defined strategy. Approval of the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan by the Commission would mean all of these goals are accepted to be the future goals of Cherokee County and would constitute a blank check for the outside planners for years to come.
The Commission would be bombarded, pressured, and coerced on a regular basis to proceed with any of the projects contained in this plan. And, every time the planners came before the Commission, we would hear the same manipulated data and rhetoric:
“This is what the citizens of Cherokee County told us they want.”
As this commission has already experienced, small decisions in the past can have a big impact on the present and the future. We have already seen the fallout from decisions made by past commissions that have created problems that cannot be easily solved and that place burdensome financial obligations on the county long after the previous commissioners have gone.
The Motion Approved (4 – 1)
Based on the facts discussed above, I made the following motion that protects property rights from zoning and eminent domain abuse but still allows consideration of various individual projects for future positive growth in our county:
- The Commission thanks each citizen of Cherokee County who worked on this project for the time and effort they contributed. Having successfully completed their assigned task, the Cherokee County Tomorrow committee is hereby dissolved.
- The Commission accepts the Cherokee Tomorrow Plan as a research and reference tool only and gives no consent or approval in any way for the implementation of any portion of this plan, its goals, or its objectives.
- Being in favor of orderly progress in our county, this Commission will continue to consider any individual projects derived from any source as long as those projects do not involve eminent domain abuse, rules and regulations that restrict a landowner’s use and enjoyment of his private property, and restrictions on land use by zoning that make private property ownership meaningless.
I ran on a platform of protecting private property rights and making decisions based on logical conclusions derived from verifiable facts.
The right to own private property that cannot be arbitrarily regulated or confiscated by the government is the moral and constitutional basis for individual freedom.
Our nation came into existence because our founders believed that the individual was superior to the collective. They were not wrong about that concept of individual freedom, and I make no apology whatsoever to defending it.