Apparently concern about a different religion is what it takes to get a Lowndes County Commissioner to speak up for the majority of the neighbors.
After Utilities Director Mike Allen outlined the case again at the Lowndes County Commission Regular Session 14 May 2013 Commissioner John Page elaborated on his question of the previous morning:
But the trust deed that we have in our notebook says it’s for the Valdosta Islamic Center Corporation, so this is a, uh, I know they’re calling it the Mercy Community Center, but isn’t this going to be a Muslim worship center instead of a subdivision?
County Planner Jason Davenport responded:
Oh, yes sir. When I say subdivision, I mean, I’m referring strictly to somebody dividing out one lot….
Davenport said as he had the previous morning that he hadn’t seen “any construction plans or improvement plans for the next step”. Chairman Bill Slaughter pointed out that:
At this time the request is just to approve the indenture for a water system.
Utilities Director Mike Allen said that was correct. Commissioner Page nonetheless said he wanted to speak further, and the Chairman said he could. Page said:
I have been contacted by residents in this area; some of them are property owners right across the road from this property, and adjoining property owners, and they are very concerned that if this center was built there that it would hurt their property values. Nobody in this room believes in religious freedom more than I do, being a Baptist minister for 32 years, and knowing how people have been persecuted down through the ages, for their religious beliefs. I would defend their right to be able to worship.
I do question the wisdom of allowing them to develop this property because existing property owners are very concerned in that area about the value of their property, being able to resell their property in the future if this was located here. And these are hard-working people; some of them have farmed this land for generations and have spent their life savings to build homes and have what they have and I think we need to take that into consideration.
I know we are just talking about a well, but a well is the first step in developing property. And in our material we have here it is clear that they are wanting to build a worship center here. And I think we need to also balance the rights of these individuals against those who are property owners around them. And we have to look at the decision we make and how it affects the majority of people in that area.
It’s really touching that a Lowndes County Commissioner is concerned about the majority of people in the area of a proposed development. Where has this great concern previously been when various random developers want to push subdivisions out into farmland, or develop with lots half the size of those next door? Let’s abstract out the specific applicant and remember the rest of this for future use:
And these are hard-working people; some of them have farmed this land for generations and have spent their life savings to build homes and have what they have and I think we need to take that into consideration. I know we are just talking about a well, but a well is the first step in developing property…. And I think we need to also balance the rights of these individuals against those who are property owners around them. And we have to look at the decision we make and how it affects the majority of people in that area.
The Commission voted to approve the trust indenture, with Commissioner Page voting against. While I applaud Commissioner Page for speaking up for the neighbors and wish all the Commissioners would do that on less religious topics, it would have been very, ah, interesting, if he had succeeded in convincing a majority of the Commission to vote his way on this one. Something about the First Amendment….
Here’s the video: