Montgomery County Now One Vote From First Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Rules

Apr 3, 2019

Project manager Chris Hamm (right) presented the plan draft to the commission.
Credit Taylor Haggerty / WBAA News

A draft comprehensive plan for Montgomery County was overwhelmingly approved by the county Plan Commission Wednesday, with only one member voting against it. If approved by county commissioners, it will be the first such plan for the county.

Project manager Chris Hamm presented the plan draft to the commission. He says many residents would like to preserve what Montgomery County already has.

“They want the vast majority of Montgomery County to stay rural, to stay agricultural,” he says. “And you can do that as part of this planning process.”

The language includes guidelines for how the community wishes to grow and develop, as well as what residents would like to avoid.

“I believe our job as the Plan Commission, in a relationship to this plan, is to look at it and see if it fits what we think the majority of our community wants and where we want to be in our future,” says Commission Vice President Aaron Morgan, who voted in favor. “And I think this plan does that.”

But residents attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the plan, and to zoning in general. Many argued that creating zoning gives more power to those who already have it in the county, including county commissioners.

“There’s no reason to allow a board of a few people with their own interests – perhaps even monetary interests – to make decisions for the rest of us and our county,” resident Sherri Coon says.

Commission member and County Council President Terry Hockersmith was the lone vote against the plan, and received applause from meeting attendees for his decision.

“Every time I’ve ran, I’ve ran on a platform that I would not promote planning and zoning,” Hockersmith says. “And I haven’t, and I won’t.”

The county is facing intense debate over how it wants to develop and grow, as wind companies negotiate with officials on potential turbine construction in the area. The plan specifically lists turbines as an undesirable land use.

County commissioners will discuss and vote on the plan at their meeting April 8th.

Correction: The original story incorrectly identified Terry Hockersmith as president of the city council. He is actually president of the county council.