While most things in life aren’t nearly as simple as they first sound, the proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 5, which will appear on the November 2 ballot, is one of the exceptions.
The ballot reads: “Shall the Constitution be amended so as to allow the owners of real property located in industrial areas to remove the property from the industrial area?” Plain and simple: This measure is about strengthening property rights by providing property owners with more choice and flexibility. For that reason, I recommend voting Yes.
More on that in a moment, but first some brief background. In 1950, voters approved an amendment to the Georgia Constitution that created certain industrial areas within unincorporated Chatham County for the purpose of economic development. Three additional parcels were added as industrial areas by an amendment in 1956. These amendments specified that the areas would not be subject to municipal taxation except for a 5-mill levy for furnishing water and fire protection services.
Recently, some property owners in these industrial areas have expressed a desire to remove their properties from the industrial area and become part of a city that can provide them with a full range of municipal services and alternative land use and zoning classifications.
Consequently, the Chatham County Legislative Delegation secured passage of a proposed constitutional amendment (HR 136) during the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly. HR136 would allow the owners of real property located in the industrial areas to remove their property from an industrial area and voluntarily become part of a city that currently provides them with municipal services.
While this action only affects certain areas of Chatham County, voters across the state will decide its fate because it requires an amendment to the Georgia Constitution, which created the industrial areas.
If this constitutional amendment is passed and implemented, the property owners in the industrial areas will be able to ask for broader commercial land use and zoning classifications other than the present industrial uses, as well as to receive the full range of municipal services. Examples of additional land use options would include commercial zoning for restaurants, hotels, service industries and other related business uses. These property owners would also have the option of not changing a thing, and keeping their property in an industrial area exactly as it has remained for the past 60 years.
In summary, passage of the proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 5 strengthens property rights by offering owners greater flexibility in land use and zoning, and giving those owners the choice of who they want to serve them.
I urge all Georgia voters to vote in favor of Amendment 5 on the November 2 ballot.
Otis S. Johnson, Ph.D.,
City of Savannah