Article misstated my views on slope rewrite

To the Editor:

I want to thank The Smoky Mountain News for the  article in the Feb 5 edition ( concerning the proposed Jackson County Mountain and Hillside Development Ordinance (MHDO). That subject needs public attention, thought and then response to the proposed ordinance. I also think your upcoming article comparing the existing ordinance to the proposed MHDO will help clarify the differences between the two. That will assist those who may not have the time to make that comparison themselves.

While I appreciate your efforts described above, I need to comment on several of the statements made in the article. That article included content from an interview with me, as a member of the planning board. I am concerned that parts of that article may misrepresent my position and beliefs. 

The statement that I have a “confession” to make regarding my prior resident state is the view of the author, not mine. I am neither embarrassed nor reluctant to discuss where I have lived my life (Alabama and Florida). 

Further, I don’t think placing geographic labels on people and the use of terms such as “outsiders” — the reporter’s words, not mine — is constructive to making Jackson County a better place to live. 

This is what’s important: From the moment I arrived in Jackson County in 2002, it became my home. If I’m lucky, I will die here and have my ashes spread in these mountains so I will never leave. Since this is my home, I feel obligated to make it the best that it can be for the generations that will follow me. I believe everyone who now considers Jackson County to be their home feels the same way.

Also, the comment that I came here seeking solitude and beauty and “he wants to see it stay that way” is inaccurate. The words in quotes in the preceding sentence are not mine; but the context of the article implies that they are. To think that any community will stay the same is naive. The only thing that is constant is change. Jackson County will change. The question is: How?

The comment in the MHDO article attributed to Dickie Woodard stating that we would all love to live in Cades Cove is absolutely true, but (as he well knows) is not realistic. I am not categorically against property development in Jackson County. It should and will happen. 

We live in a beautiful part of the United States and that beauty is no secret. Others want to come and enjoy what we enjoy on a daily basis. However, we need to make sure we don’t “love it to death.” If that happens, no one will enjoy the results. 

The question is how the property in Jackson County will be developed, not if it will be developed? That fact is what makes the contents of the MHDO so important.

I also do not categorically defend the existing “steep slope” ordinance. Since I became a member of the planning board, I’ve probably asked as many questions about the justification of the parameters that are included in the existing ordinance as I have asked questions about the contents of the proposed ordinance. There need to be changes to the existing ordinance, and I support those that the planning board, as a whole, has advocated.

Regardless of my position on the proposed MHDO, what’s important is the position of the citizens of Jackson County. As I said in the interview, it’s their ordinance. I strongly encourage them to attend the planning board public hearing and express their views on the subject matter included in the proposed MHDO. 

I appreciate the SMN giving me the opportunity to respond to the article.

Tom Rodgers

Jackson County Planning Board


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