Building permits for rural construction and reshaping the five county board districts to reflect population changes were issues the Union County Board of Supervisors considered July 5.
Requiring building permits for residential construction in unincorporated parts of Union County was the result of a new Mississippi law that took effect July 1.
The legislature and governor enacted House Bill 1163 during this year’s legislative term. It seems that the requirement for what amounts to a minimal level of building codes in rural Mississippi came as something of a surprise to county boards throughout the state. It was an unwelcome surprise for a great many boards including that of Union County.
Like most Mississippi counties, Union does not have a planning and zoning department, so the question arises as to what county office will handle the new state requirement and at what cost.
A simple comparison may help illustrate the problem the Union County board faces in establishing a minimal level of zoning and zoning enforcement:
The City of New Albany has a population of about 8,500 and an area of 17 square miles. It has two full time specialists working on planning and zoning issues.
Union County outside the corporate limits of New Albany has a population of about 20,000. The county has an area of 417 square miles, about 25 times as much area as the city. The rural population of the county is more than two times that of the city of New Albany. Thus, the question: if it takes two full time professionals to manage zoning in New Albany, how many would it take to handle it in an area 25 times the size of New Albany and with more than twice the population?
The legislature and governor did not, in their great wisdom, provide any guidance or funding when they mandated zoning and building codes for rural Mississippi.
Union County Board President C J. Bright said at the July 5 meeting that he and other supervisors have “meetings to go to this month” to try to learn more about what HB1163 requires and how county boards in predominantly rural counties can possibly comply with it.
The yet unexplored problem with mandated rural zoning is the fact that it is likely to be highly unpopular with many rural residents. Many of these folks “live in the country” because they like to be free of many of the regulations that govern the lives of people who live in town.
The other thorny issue before the board on Tuesday was re-shaping the five supervisory districts to reflect population changes between the 2010 and 2020 census counts. Elliott and Britt, the county’s consulting civil engineer, has created proposed redistricting maps to reflect the shifts and increases in population. They have also considered racial ratios in the districts as required by the federal government.
The board has set a public hearing for 11 a.m. on Monday, August 15, to receive public comments about the proposed redistricting.
The image at the top of this article shows the proposed districts. At the end of the article, there are links to larger PDF images of both the current and the proposed new supervisors’ districts. At first glance they appear to be nearly the same, but close examination will reveal numerous small changes.
Because of a lack of rain during recent weeks fire hazards have sharply increased. The Union County board enacted a 30 day ban on all burning, effective immediately.
The board also handled routine business including paying the bills, approving minutes of the June meetings and the road department work schedule for the month.
The next regular meeting of the Union County Board of Supervisors will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 1.
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