THOMASVILLE — The Thomas County Commission chairman expressed shock Thursday about action — or a lack of action — at a Monday meeting of a commission-appointed panel.

Josh Herring was surprised to learn Tuesday morning what the Thomas County Planning and Land Use (PLUS) Commission addressed at a Monday public hearing, that the panel did not vote on a commission request and did not make recommendations to county commissioners.

More than 150 people packed the second-floor courtroom at the Thomas County Courthouse for the PLUS meeting. Most of those who spoke did so against changes in the county’s land-use ordinance as it pertains to agricultural tracts.

A number of negative comments were about a change from one dwelling being allowed on an acre of agricultural land to a requirement for one residence per 10 acres in an ag tract.

Commissioners had discussed one dwelling on five acres and one dwelling on 10 acres, Herring said.

“As far as I’m concerned, 10 acres is not even to be talked about,” he told the Times-Enterprise Thursday.

A lot of Thomas County agricultural land is in conservation-use easements, Herring said, and state government allows only five acres to be used for family dwellings.

“Ten acres would just not work at all,” the chairman said.

A document provided to the Times-Enterprise three days before the hearing, distributed to people at the hearing and read from by Bond during the hearing addressed a number of ordinance amendments, including one to allow for one dwelling per 10 acres on agricultural land, a change from the existing ruling of one dwelling unit per acre.

Herring said commissioners wanted PLUS to look at how changes would fit into the county’s land-use ordinance. Also, Herring thought it was the panel’s responsibility to do so.

PLUS members voted on three zoning petitions at the Monday meeting and passed along their action to county commissioners for a final say-so.

At the top of the Monday PLUS meeting, Chairman Perry Bond said, in reference to commissioners’ petition for changes, “This did not originate with the Thomas County Plus Commission. ... This ain’t my baby.”

“Mr. Bond said it was not his baby. Mr. Bond was wrong. It was his baby — his and the PLUS Commission’s. That’s what we appoint them for,” Herring said Thursday. “The five acres never came up, but should have.”

On the meeting agenda for a Monday county commission meeting are the three zoning items voted on by PLUS last Monday and county commissioners’ request to PLUS for an ordinance amendment.

Herring thinks commissioners’ request of PLUS will be acted on in some form at the Monday board meeting — approved, defeated or referred to the citizen advisory committee for a state-mandated communitywide comprehensive plan due in 2008.

Meanwhile, commissioners placed a moratorium on certain residential development in unincorporated areas until May 1.

Herring said some citizens have questioned why commissioners seem to be in a hurry for action on agricultural land. Now, he said, might be the ideal time to determine what would fit into the comprehensive plan and how people feel about the subject.

A vote might not come for a month, six months or until after future communitywide public hearings that will be conducted on the comprehensive plan.

“We will try to get as much information as we can out to the public about what’s being looked at on these issues,” Herring said.

Pointing out that six of the eight county commissioners own agricultural land, Herring said commissioners do not want to do anything to jeopardize the future of ag tracts.

Ag land involves not only farmland, but all rural tracts, Herring said. Rural land also includes forests, swamps and ponds, he explained.

Herring said he would not make excuses for what was presented at the PLUS meeting.

County commissioners will conduct a hearing Monday to find out how people feel, the chairman said.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 220.

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