Please participate in our comprehensive plan — By Tommy Purser

There were 35-40 people gathered at the Hazlehurst Civic Center Tuesday to talk about our community and brainstorm about the future for us and our neighbors.
Under the guidance of a wonderfully efficient facilitator, we put our thinking caps on to consider the positives associated with Hazlehurst and Jeff Davis County, and the negatives as well — the good and bad of our community.
That gave us an opportunity to think about building on our strengths and devising a plan to strengthen our weaknesses — to fill the voids we have in our little town.
It appeared to me that, as a group, we love where we live — we have a sense that we’re “home” as one put it, and glad of.
But that’s not to say there is no need for improvement and there were lots of weaknesses, shortcomings, voids, wishes pointed out by the diverse group.
“We need more ….” was a frequent statement introduction.
Or simply “We need ….”
I didn’t say a lot at the meeting, I generally prefer to listen but I did mention of couple of shortcomings that, personally, I felt were important.
First off, after the recent County Commission meeting where residents of the Evans Subdivision, off the Douglas Highway, came to ask for the commission’s help after two mobile homes were placed in their nice subdivision, threatening their property values and their quality of life. I sympathized with them.
Thirty-five or so years ago, when then-State Representative Bayne Stone proposed legislation to expand Hazlehurst’s city limits, non-city citizens who resided just outside the city filled the council meeting room to strongly object to being brought into the city limits. That meant higher taxes and they wanted nothing of it. Some of those residents who opposed being included in the city limits of Hazlehurst lived in the Evans Subdivision.
While being part of the city meant garbage and sewer service, police protection, animal control, building code inspectors and, yes, zoning protection, the pocketbook issue overrode all the advantages of being part of a city.
I live in the city and I am happy that no one can put a mobile home next door to me or even in my neighborhood. No one can build a convenience store in the vacant lot across the street from my home. I don’t have to worry about a hog operation or chicken house befouling (or, perhaps, befowling) my neighborhood. If a tornado comes along, the building code inforcement offers me protection from pieces of my neighbor’s home smashing through my front window.
People in the Evans Subdivision don’t have that luxury.
The other point I made was that a city-county comprehensive plan is worthless if the local government and the community doesn’t buy into it. In the past, comprehensive plans have been developed and placed on a shelf to gather dust. While parts have been followed, it has been mostly coincidental. The city in particular has followed a haphazard path at odds with its own comprehensive plan.
Hopefully, things will be different in the future. But unless the public insists that the well thought out plan of action is followed, it will be of little use.
You can help out by going to http://bit.ly/JeffDavisCompPlan2021 to keep track of the work on the plan and offer input. And there will be a couple of opportunities for public input in the coming months.
Please help yourselves and your neighbors — your community — by participating. You’ll be glad you did.

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