ERICKSON: Opportunity and loss

November 22, 2013 

I am headed back from London today. I was very honored to be asked to participate in last night’s Oxford Union debate at Oxford University. The formal Thursday night debates, black tie affairs, have been held every year since 1823. I stood beside dispatch boxes given to the Oxford Union by Winston Churchill to make my case against the proposition that “positive discrimination is a necessary evil.”

At least, as I pointed out, the proponents conceded discrimination is evil, though they thought the evil justified to remedy the evil of negative discrimination. The debate was a lot of fun. I stayed across from the Martyr’s Memorial, a stone monument commemorating the nearby burning at the stake the “Oxford Martyrs” -- Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. The three were burned on orders of Queen Mary as she set about turning the country back to Catholicism.

The martyrs were killed there March 21, 1556. The British erected the memorial in 1843. My hotel was built in 1864 as the American Civil War raged through across the Atlantic pond. What is old to us is rather young to the British. The British have preserved much, but they’ve also bulldozed over and paved a great deal too.

Locally, our Planning and Zoning Commission is dealing with two issues and they seem to have them backward. In one, a church wishes to sell its property. It is historic for sure, but then virtually every church in the downtown area has some bit of history. The property has been vacant for seven years, is crumbling and would be costly to repair. The church has sought out a buyer and now has one, and some are trying to stop the deal because of history.

But the church has been out of the property since 2007. Those who do not want a chain restaurant on the location had opportunity to buy the property. They did not. They waited until the church had a buyer and now wish to make life difficult for the congregation and buyer. There should have been no question that the church, owner of the building, has the right to sell it. Frankly, chain restaurants are needed around the Medical Center, which continues to grow. The development is a good fit.

In the other case, property owners on Zebulon Road have long sought to sell their property. Similarly, those opposed could have intervened sooner and purchased the land themselves. But there is a big difference between the two sales. The downtown lots around the Medical Center have all been turning commercial as the area changes. On Zebulon, there’s been a long-held understanding that commercial development would not move east past Northway Church and Sonny Carter Elementary School.

There sure is a lot of land on Bass Road at Interstate 75 graded and ready for development. Perhaps the Planning and Zoning Commission could persuade the developer to something already available with land cleared. North Macon has much available for development.

It is a thorny issue for me. I think property owners should be able to sell their property as they please. But we have a comprehensive land use plan for our county. For quite a long time, the residents east of Northway Church and Sonny Carter and in the connecting neighborhoods have understood there would be no commercial development beyond the church and school. The Stone Edge neighborhood already has flooding due to development to its west. Traffic is already bad and will get worse.

Bulldoze the church. Find somewhere else for the Zebulon commercial development.

Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.

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