Candidates for the District 2 and District 3 seats on the Coweta County Commission squared off Monday night at a forum sponsored by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce Business & Community Advocacy Committee and the Coweta County Republican Party.
While there was significant agreement among candidates on many of the issues there were other issues, such as the need for impact fees, that came with a definite difference of opinion.
The first portion of the forum featured District 2 incumbent Tim Lassetter and challenger Eddie Wilson. Included in the second part of the forum were District 3 candidates Bob Blackburn, George Harper, and David Stover.
On the issue of impact fees charged for new development that are used to help fund essential county services, candidates were asked to give their opinion of the fees and assess whether the fees recently lowered by the county commission are beneficial, especially for those involving commercial and industrial property.
In his response, Lassetter gave a brief history of why the county commission decided to lower the fees. Both he and Wilson were in agreement that impact fees provided a positive benefit for the county.
But it was in the District 3 forum pertaining to the same question that the lines of demarcation were clearly evident.
Blackburn said he was open to reviewing, but not dropping, impact fees.
“Impact fees have a place in our economy,” he said.
Harper, too, said the fees were needed.
“We need to keep them low enough to stay competitive with who we’re competing with,” said Harper.
But it was Stover who said he wanted to discontinue the use of impact fees and that only five percent of Georgia cities use the fees to help supplement services.
“They are anti-free market and anti-Republican,” he said.
Stover also noted the substantial difference in the pricing methodology of the impact in Coweta and Peachtree City, adding that, “If you (as a business) had a choice where would you go?”
Blackburn in response said companies have to pay their way and that Coweta was looking for high-end, high-paying jobs. And Harper weighed in, essentially agreeing and adding that Peachtree City is a municipality while Coweta as a county has significant additional considerations and issues in play.
Candidates were also asked their opinion on Starship Adult Novelties & Gifts at Thomas Crossroads and whether the issue and the ordinance changes were handled appropriately by the county commission. Commissioners during public hearings on the Starship issue were met at one meeting with more than 300 citizens that filed into the commission chambers demanding that the business license be turned down, even if it meant that the county would be sued. Commissioners complied with the wishes of the citizens. It was a decision that landed them in court where the county lost the argument.
Wilson said the county did a good job in shaping the ordinances relating to adult-type businesses. He also said that when applying for a business license, an operation should be issued a license on the basis of the way the requirements are framed, adding that if a business does not comply it should be shut down.
Lassetter in his response said Starship could have obtained a business license in an industrial area whether he liked it or not. Lassetter also noted that, as a sitting commissioner, he could not say much since the issue is involved in a federal lawsuit.
“I got 138 emails (when the issue came before the commission) and two of them were for (Starship),” Lassetter said. “If you were in my place how would you vote?”
The same question was posed to the District 3 candidates. Harper said he thought the issue could have been handled differently by all sides. He said the commission needs to make sure that ordinance language is explicit.
For his part, Stover said he did not like Starship but thought that businesses should not be treated in the manner that transpired.
And Blackburn said he was not in favor of Starship coming to the location but, “The free market will decide,” adding that, “Their attorney wins every case. He mows them down.”
As for the question of whether voters should decide to have a regional 1-cent sales tax for transportation, all the candidates agreed that voters should be the ones to make that determination. Stover added that he is not in favor of any more sales taxes.
Candidates were provided with time for opening and closing remarks and responded to questions prepared by the local Republican Party, the chamber and those submitted in advance from the community.
Views previously expressed by each of the candidates in response to questions on a variety of topics posed by The Citizen can be found in their entirety at https://www.thecitizen.com/articles/06-10-2010/coweta-county-commission-d… and at https://www.thecitizen.com/articles/06-03-2010/coweta-county-commission-d…