“Save Our Farms And Homes – S.O.F.A.H” Prepares for County Commission Meeting
The Jefferson County community group Save our Farms and Homes met on Wednesday evening to discuss organizational strategy for reaching the public and governmental officials regarding their opposition to the location of the proposed Megasite. Property owners in the footprint of the Megasite were joined by Attorney Scott Hurley and concerned citizens, both in and outside of the adjoining affected area, to develop a plan of action for the upcoming Jefferson County Commission meeting on Monday.
The meeting on February 11, 2013 is a Called Meeting and the issue of funding the first portion of the Megasite Certification process will be an agenda item. The Jefferson County Budget Committee approved a EDOC funding request in the amount of $442,000 last week, however the request only passed by a narrow margin. Save our Farms and Homes and Hurley, who represents affected property owners that account for around 1400 acres, used the meeting time to prepare for Monday’s voting meeting where the group plans to have a presence. Hurley stated that it is important for the Commission to know that property owners are committed to keeping their land. He said that he hopes that Commissioners that have declared their unwillingness to invoke eminent domain will not waste nearly $500,000 of taxpayer money on a project that will require eminent domain to acquire the needed land. Hurley stated that the argument should not be for approval of initial funding because there is too little information available to deny funding – the argument should be to waste no taxpayer money on a project that has too little information to justify support. The footwork should be done before the first tax dollar is spent. The group and their attorney plan to provide the Commission with solid information that they are unwilling to sell in hopes that the bulk of the Commission will not invest in a project that cannot find wings without invoking eminent domain. Hurley stated that he had drafted and sent a letter to all involved government elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce for Jefferson County, EDOC and the County Attorney informing them that the clients that he represents are not willing to sell their property. He noted that, though property owner and their representative were only allotted 3 minutes each to address the Budget Committee, proponents of the Megasite gave a presentation that lasted more than 1 hour. Hurley stated that he has been in contact with the acquisition firm and has no personal knowledge of any options that have been purchased. The group discussed the number of megasites that have been (177) and possibility that any site built in Jefferson County could sit empty for several years.
Commissioner Jimmy Carmichael addressed the group concerning the protocol for the upcoming Called Meeting and encouraged property owners to maintain composure and commitment though these are stressful times for many of them. He stated that there are questions regarding the funding avenue that was taken by the Budget Committee and that there could be a deficit in the account from over obligation of funds. The Commissioner said that he was proud of his community and the support that they have shown each other during this process and hopes that the community continues to bond together for the good of the property owners and Jefferson County as a whole.
There will be another meeting of Save our Farms and Homes on Saturday at noon (Best Western at exit 8 in Morristown) and the public is invited to attend.