The Planning and Zoning Commission’s July 10 meeting resulted in angry disagreement between the two commissions more due to perceptions by the planning folks of condescension on the part of the council. The two bodies to working to determine how to regulate growth within the city.
Before launching into the work session, City Manager Kevin McBurnett urged the two councils to put aside any ill feelings and work to solve the problems the city faces.
“Since 2000, when I arrived, this city has changed a lot,” McBurnett said. “And no doubt it will change a lot more, especially with the arrival of LakePoint.”
LakePoint Sporting Community, a 1,400-acre sports complex to be built within the city limits, is expected to include 5 million square feet of hotels, restaurants, retail shops, office space and entertainment venues upon completion in 2015. It is estimated to bring more than 25,000 jobs to Emerson and Bartow County.
“In 2000, the only plans Emerson had were piggy-backed with Bartow County’s and they weren’t very good,” McBurnett said. “We still don’t really have a plan, just bits and pieces. We need to get to work. LakePoint is rolling and growth is coming quickly. We need to set guidelines for that growth.”
McBurnett stressed that two plans are needed, one for short-term growth and another for the long-term.
“Things are happening,” he said. “I’m getting calls every day. People are getting interested. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but give it a couple of years and look out. We need to be talking to people, find out what they want, conduct public meetings. The majority of the people want things to remain the same, but that ship sailed when LakePoint broke ground. More growth is coming and we have to make plans now.”
Council member Charles Lowry said he felt the two councils were on different timelines.
“Some people are interested in moving forward in a quicker manner than others,” he said. “All of us, including me, need to develop a different attitude about the work it’s going to require. And it’s going to require a lot of work. We can’t increase taxes in the city of Emerson, so we must figure out where to get the money.”
After further discussion, it was decided that the public needed to be better educated about the overall vision of the community. The councils agreed to meet in dual session again in August to focus on methods to reach its goals.