November 6, it is time to vote again for Milton City Council. Experience has shown this is usually a meaningless endeavor. There are rarely any life affecting issues to consider, and even when there are, there is no telling where a politician stands. Words and actions, especially in the political realm, quite often don’t reflect one another. But, this election is different. It has great importance to its residents and it is relatively easy to figure where the individual parties stand on the most important issue.
The city of Milton has become a beautiful residential community. Nice small homes and spacious mansions, on nice pieces of land, line the roads. Horses, cattle, and other farm animals can be found dotting the countryside. Even the wildlife still has a place to call its own. Pleasant two lane roads course over hills, past fields and through forests of trees, reminiscent of a trip to Grandmother’s house. Even the traffic can be called pleasant compared to the rest of metro Atlanta. It could be lots worse. All in all it is a wonderful rural community, with minimal development, this in itself is the problem. The fact that it is rural with minimal development, makes Milton the developers dream. There is money to be made and why not maximized profits.
Milton is the fertile crescent for developers. People want to be here and there is land to build on, so let’s build. Why just one family on that plot, can’t make money that way, let’s try for four. Don’t forget the potential for business development that pays even more. How could the residents of such a fine city survive without two or three gas stations and 10 or 12 fast food establishments in their backyard? The developers are salivating. They are not about making a place more beautiful. They are about making the most money and moving on. Until now, they have been held just out of arms reach, by a number of concerned residents and politicians, but it’s election time again and another chance to change the rules that control their lust.
To this point, Milton’s growth has been controlled by a land use plan that establishes guidelines for its development. This plan controls growth by assigning areas that can be zoned in certain ways, as well as controlling density where there is no sewer. Zoning has limited value. Zoning can be changed, it can go from residential to commercial as fast as you can say “my cousin wants to build a Zippy Mart.” Or it can go up from a low density residential to a high density residential zoning as fast as you can say, “how can I make any money developing at one unit per acre?” We have all lived in areas controlled by zoning alone and too often we have seen how that falls short. No sewer has a set defined limit to what and how much can be built on an acre. As long as there is no compromise on the sewer issue there will always be a throttle on development. Once an exception to the sewer issue is made, the legal system can force the issue elsewhere. This election is simple, it is about absolutely no sewer or sewer, that is to say low density development or higher density development respectively. Reading between the lines one can find where the candidates stand on development and sewer, and perhaps pick the one that best reflects the individual’s desires.
With all the slanderous mud slinging, baby kissing and rhetoric, how can you find the candidate to reflect your views? One could ask each candidate where they stand, but some will tell you what you want to hear and others will dance around the issue, still others will tell the truth. In most situations you would be left to guess blindly to find the right candidate probably guided by who has the most signs along the roadways, but this election has hints, if you read between the lines. So if you want either heavier development or controlled growth, it’s not about taxes, roads or other issues, it is about sewers, and which candidates are most likely to bend on the sewer issue. Keeping in mind, any weakness on the sewer stance may be enough to affect the direction of development.
Conveniently it seems the candidates have aligned themselves on teams. Driving across Milton, the Mohrig, O’Brien, and Santi signs can be found together in a nice little threesome not unusually next to for sale signs, or in front of construction sites. O’Brien has openly endorsed Santi by his attendance to Santi’s fund-raiser at a local developer’s house. Santi, Mohrig, and O’Brien have received backing from a number of developers, while Santi has even taken support from The Atlanta Board of Realtors, and even a private sewer company called Innovative Water Solutions. Groups like these developers, Realtors, and sewer companies, are not likely to give support unless they expect something in return. Candidates don’t have to accept contributions and backing from any organization or person unless they choose to. But in choosing to it reflects the views of that candidate. If these candidates had accepted support from a prominent neo-Nazi, or the KKK, it would say something about them, just as accepting support from developers, sewer companies, and Realtors says something. Maybe these candidates have their own definition of controlled growth and no sewer and they don’t owe their supporters and contributors anything, you read between the lines.
The threesome’s opponent is a triumvirate of Zahner Bailey, Hewitt and Tart. Julie Zahner Bailey was an activist fighting development long before she took the fight to her post on the City Council. She has been so effective in her fight against uncontrolled development that developers have openly cursed her name in the local paper. She has a proven stance against sewer or any variance from the land use plan. One needs only to look at her record of voting from her first year in the council to see where her true feelings lie. It’s very likely even her critics would agree she would never give in on the issues of sewer and uncontrolled growth. Hewitt and Tart are unknown quantities. They have laid claim to no sewer and controlled growth but what candidate hasn’t. Perhaps the best indicator of their stance on growth and sewer is the lack of support from the development community, and the fact they can claim no sewer company has given them the thumbs up. Hewitt and Tart appear to share the same attitudes toward development or at least the same backers, as their signs can often be seen together on the lawns of city residents.
This election is not about taxes, impact fees, traffic, sexual orientation, bogus ethics charges filed by developers, false accusations about some not lost money, none of these things. It is about development and therefore sewer. If your desires as a citizen of Milton are to maintain a rural community with lovely lands, two lane roads, tolerable traffic and farm animals, then sewer cannot be allowed in Milton and growth must be controlled Your votes should go for Zahner Bailey, Hewitt and Tart. If you are a developer, involved in building, own a sewer company or have lots of land for sell, then reading between the lines, O’Brien, Mohrig, and Santi are most likely for you. This is an important election and sewer is the issue. There are no other issues. All else is mundane. For once you don’t have to throw darts in the dark to find your candidate, if you read between the lines, you can find who is most likely to control growth or maximize your profit.
- David Shepherd