Georgia County Fed Up with Too Many Rules and Regulations

Published December 23, 2002

Chicago, Illinois: Fed up with the complexity of zoning ordinances and various other land use restrictions already in existence, and a new raft of rules handed down by the state government, elected officials in Habersham County, Georgia, took a radical and unprecedented step. They voted to eliminate all land use regulations for the county, as well as the planning commission and building inspectors. The County Commission took action at a December 16, 2002, meeting.

Habersham County is a mostly rural county in central Georgia, whose county seat is Clarkesville. The action was initiated by outgoing Commissioner Jerry Tanksley, who proposed doing away with the land use regulations, planning commission, and inspectors. Challenged to do more than just complain about the situation, he said he would make a motion to abolish all land use regulations if someone would second it. To his surprise, fellow commissioner Dennis Fish seconded the motion. After some heated debate, the motion passed by a 3-2 vote. The commissioners voting to eliminate the regulations were Mr. Tanksley, Mr. Fish, and Dewey Tench. Commissioners Greg Popham and Douglas Vermilya voted to maintain the regulations.

“What a great way to end the year,” said Joseph L. Bast, President of The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank based in Chicago, Illinois, which has long advocated property rights and opposed restrictive land use regulations.

“This was a courageous action by a group of local officials who were obviously fed up with the cost, complexity, and loss of freedom caused by these restrictions on development efforts and private landowners,” Mr. Bast stated. “While it’s unknown at this point whether this vote will stand or not, we applaud this effort and hope other local officials will take an example from Habersham County.”

For more information, contact Heartland Public Affairs Director Greg Lackner at 312/377-4000, 773/489-6447 or email [email protected].

Editors: For more information on this story, go to Habersham County commissioners can be contacted through the office of Russell Vandiver, Habersham County Manager, at 706/754-6264.

For expert commentary and reactions to the Habersham County story, consider contacting:

Wendell Cox, Heartland Senior Fellow, 618/632-8507, [email protected]

Barry Klein, President of Houston Property Rights Association, 713/224-4144, [email protected]

Randal O’Toole, President of The Thoreau Institute, 541/347-1517, [email protected]

Dr. Edwin Mills, Emeritus Professor, Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University, 847/491-8340, [email protected].