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2-3-06 Changing Georgia landscapes and lifestyles – Northeast GA too

… Jackson, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Henry and other area counties.  It is also happening in Madison and Oglethorpe Counties.  Where pastures and row crop farms existed a decade or so back are now subdivisions.  Many have two story houses (wait til the owners turn 60!)   Even though there are different sizes and shapes, they all seem to blend into a similar picture - houses without trees on “postage stamp” lots.



January 22, 2006


Changing Georgia landscapes and lifestyles


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


The farming scene of pastures and family farms is becoming a thing of the past.  The nostalgic rural scenes of the past are “Gone with the Wind”!


You can drive through counties from Rabun at the N C line to Fayette County south of Atlanta, and from Dawson County in Northwest Georgia to Lake Jackson in Northeast Georgia.  It is also happening in central Georgia and other urban areas.


From time to time, I drive through Jackson, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Henry and other area counties.  It is also happening in Madison and Oglethorpe Counties.  Where pastures and row crop farms existed a decade or so back are now subdivisions.  Many have two story houses (wait til the owners turn 60!)   Even though there are different sizes and shapes, they all seem to blend into a similar picture - houses without trees on “postage stamp” lots.


It is a sign of changing times and lifestyles.  Not a large of percentage of Georgians makes its living in farming anymore.  Many of us trace our heritage in agriculture and rural Georgia.


Once the farm’s crops become houses, there is no going back.  One generation will benefit from the land.  It is then gone as a family asset and heritage.  Houses and subdivisions are new for a while and then they edge and the demographics change and the lifestyles change again.  It is a continuing cycle.


Disappearing scenes in North GA







The Family Farm Homeplace- a rapidly disappearing phenomenon in Georgia





10-8-04 Oconee Heritage Photo Exhibit is Both Art and Nostalgia


     The “New Look” in rural Georgia








1-16-06 Farming, Money, & Development Sprawl


The Macon Telegraph



January 16, 2006


Holding down the farm

High land prices make selling tempting to Houston farmers


By Wayne Crenshaw


In a pasture alongside Cullen Road, holsteins graze on a spring-like day while Tal Talton prepares equipment to spray a wheat field.


Less than five minutes away from this peaceful country setting is the rushing traffic of ever-sprawling Warner Robins.


Standing outside their dairy barn Wednesday morning, Talton's dad, Neal Talton, motions first in one direction, then another, and then another and another, as he recounts the tracts of farmland nearby that have been sold in recent months to developers.


He recalls not so many years ago when there were 20 dairies in Houston County. Now there are only four. His farm is one of the few of any size left in north Houston County, where it's hard to find a place to stand and not see a home under construction.


Little by little, pecan orchards are becoming subdivisions and strip malls are being built on what had been cow pastures or cotton fields. In 1906 ruddy men in overalls guided plow mules from dawn to dusk over fields where in 2006 surveyors and developers wearing neckties stride and plan big-dollar projects.


With land going for $0,000 an acre and higher, it's getting harder every day for farmers to find a reason to remain in a business that already has enough challenges.


Yet Neal Talton isn't even considering selling the 1,300 acres that his great-grandfather bought a century ago. ……


"It's a great place to raise a family, and my son, he loves being on a farm," Talton said. "We have a great relationship."




In 1862, Ralph Dorsett's great-great-grandfather bought 202 acres in Houston County off what is now U.S. 41. The price was about $ per acre. In 2004, Dorsett reluctantly sold 139 acres of that same tract for $0,000 an acre to the Houston County Hospital Authority.


As the fifth generation to farm the land, it wasn't really the money that enticed him to sell. ……


"I had second thoughts," Dorsett said of the sale. "I'd really rather be farming. It was just obvious I was going to quit farming there, and I didn't want to go off somewhere else. Every year it's harder to farm there. There's more risk in putting a tractor and equipment on the road."


He still farms the land by leasing it back from the Hospital Authority, which bought the property for possible expansion but has no current plans to build there.


At 66 and battling cancer, Dorsett isn't sure how much longer he can keep farming the land. He said the days of farming are about over in north Houston County.


"It's just a thing of the past," said Dorsett, who recalled when Watson Boulevard was a two-lane road and Carl Vinson Parkway was a dirt road. "There's a few fields here and there but for the most part it's in the past."


Farmers who own their land at least have the option of passing up the high prices developers offer. Many farmers, however, lease the land they farm. They are basically at the mercy of the owner if the land is sold for development.


Charlie Stewart, of Warner Robins, farmed land that he rented in Houston County until the early 1990s, when developers started buying it up. ……


"All my life I farmed in Houston County," he said. "I lost it all to development."




Despite all the development and high land prices, farming is far from over in Houston County. The southern part of the county is still largely rural, even though subdivisions are cropping up there also.



Chance's expertise is in horticulture, but he has to double as the ag agent because the county currently does not have one and the state is not funding the position.


Jake Redmon, manager of Houston Fertilizer & Grain, has been involved in agriculture in the county for 25 years. The trend he sees is not only declining agriculture acreage, but more farmers leasing land.


Developers often buy land but aren't always ready to go forward with construction, or they might plan on holding it in hopes that the land value will go up. In the meantime they lease it to farmers. That means that what little farming is left in the northern part of the county might be on precarious grounds.


The other trend, Redmon said, is smaller farms. ……


"I can remember when if you had 300 acres of wheat, that was a small farm," Redmon said. "A big farm was a thousand acres. Now 300 acres is a big farm."


The farm supply company, which has locations in Bonaire and on the west side of the county toward Fort Valley, is owned by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Redmon estimated that the company sells about 30 percent less fertilizer than 10 years ago, which he attributed mostly to the decline of farming in the county.




Had it not been for an act of the Georgia Legislature in 1992 that created the Conservation Use program, there would probably be little farming at all in Houston County.


The law, a response to the urban sprawl of Atlanta and other metro areas that gobbled up farmland, allowed farmers a significant property tax break. If farmers agree not to sell the land for 10 years, they pay taxes on a fraction of the fair-market value……


Even people with as little as five acres can get the tax break. They just have to actually use the land for agriculture and agree not to sell it for 10 years. If they sell it early, the penalty is twice the money saved from the tax break.


For example, someone with five acres of land valued at $0,000 per acre would have paid $97 in taxes in 2005. The taxed value of land under Conservation Use can range from $43 per acre to $24 per acre, depending on the soil type. If the five acres of land were taxed at $00 per acre, the owner would pay a total of $4 in property taxes….




Though they also grow wheat and other row crops, the Taltons rely primarily on the dairy for income. They milk 300 cows twice daily.


Part of what keeps his operation profitable, Neal Talton said, is that milk is perishable and therefore largely immune to competition from foreign imports. …….


"If you are having a hard time making money, it's mighty tempting to sell your land," Talton said.

He figures it's probably inevitable that his farm will someday end up in the hands of developers, but he hopes that's a long way off.


He is not against growth, he said. In fact, he is a member of the Houston County Development Authority. But he laments the loss of open land.


"I like to see the county progress but when you love the land, it's kind of like a double-edged sword," Talton said. "When you love the land you hate to see it all go to houses."

1-20-06 Land Use planning discussed in Madison County


The Madison County Journal



January 18, 2006


Plans for growth
use map to be focus of upcoming meeting

An upcoming meeting will give county residents the opportunity to make their wishes known to county planners regarding Madison County growth.

The Madison County Planning and Zoning Department will hold its first public input session regarding changes to the Future Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan for Madison County and the cities of Carlton, Colbert, Comer, Danielsville, Hull and Ila Thursday, Jan. 26, at 6:30 p.m., in the courtroom of the Madison County Government building.

“The purpose of this meeting is to identify problems with the Future Land Use Element, and to identify potential solutions to those problems,” said county planning director Doug Appler. “The public is encouraged to think critically and creatively, to research other areas or ideas, and to come to the meeting with suggestions that offer something for everybody in the county. Planning department staff will use this information to shape the new Future Land Use Element of the Comprehensive Plan.”

1-14-06 Barrow to have work session on Impact Fees


The Barrow County News



January 11, 2006


County to set work session on impact fees


Impact fees are of interest to Barrow County Commissioners but, before money is spent to seek a consultant to investigate the benefits, a work session has been requested with staff to hear the initial pros and cons. ……

"This is not something we are in hurry to do," said Garrison.


District 1 Commissioner Jerry Lampp suggested getting the public involved in the discussion.


Commissioners did give the unanimous nod to the local legislative move to give an additional homestead exemption for school taxes for qualifying seniors - "the ones who need it most," said Garrison. ……..


"This is long overdue," said Hendrix. "It's a crying shame something hasn't been done before."


Commissioner Lampp suggested that Board of Education member Lynn Stevens, who made remarks during a school board session about some commissioners possibly qualifying for the exemption, to do her research "because I've not seen where three commissioners would benefit."


Garrison said the commission would show support for some tax relief for those who need it most.

In an effort to have upfront money to invest into the planned upgrades of the county Land Application Plant on Briscoe Mill Road and new service lines, commissioners voted to hike the sewer tap fee from $,500 to $,500.

Another revenue source for sewer expansion will be the commission-approved sewer allocation and agreement for developers who want to reserve capacity.


"We are getting lots of additional requests for sewer," said Darragh, who indicated that while the 650 units committed for residential use for sewer have been used, flow remains below what was expected.

Darragh said the county could still allow appropriation of sewer to subdivisions to continue the quality growth desired and still reserve capacity for commercial endeavors.


The resolution provides that "Each residential subdivision requiring sewer service will be allocated a maximum of 50 residential sewer taps per calendar year." Half the tap fee would be required when the reservation agreement is made with the balance due when the building permit is requested.


Darragh estimated the tap fees per yaer could generate $00,000 this year with 300 to 400 homes expected to be built. The next year could net $00,000 with more houses being constructed…….