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County Commission debates Power’s Act, Sand Plant and implications for the community

Posted on Friday, February 2, 2024 at 12:10 pm

LACIE SILVA – Editor

A fervent debate sparked in the County Commissioner meeting as concerns over the Power’s Act, the Sand Plant, and their potential implications arose, leading to a contentious and intensive session, on October 23.

Jack Champion presented the topic of the Sand Plant and the Special Powers Act, a topic that previously underwent a vote of 12 to 1 in January, generating confusion during this meeting. The meeting hall was jam packed as locals, specialists from other counties, and the commissioners all came together for this issue.

A sample of the “County Powers Act Resolution” can be found at https://www.ctas.tennessee.edu/sample-county-powers-act-resolution. This outlines and defines the five sections of the act that would allow the county, if passed by a 2/3 majority, to “be authorized to exercise those powers granted to municipalities.” Additionally, any regulation to be exercised under this resolution is required to pass with a 2/3 majority before adaptation.

Under this act such ‘powers’ are defined as the capabilities to “Define, prohibit, abate, suppress, prevent and regulate all acts, practices, conduct, businesses, occupations, callings, trades, uses of property and all other things whatsoever detrimental, or liable to be detrimental, to the health, morals, comfort, safety, convenience or welfare of the inhabitants of the municipality, and exercise general police powers; and Prescribe limits within which business occupations and practices liable to be nuisances or detrimental to the health, morals, security or general welfare of the people may lawfully be established, conducted or maintained.”

Due to the extensive nature of the outlined authorities granted to municipalities that enact it, many people like Champion wanted to use the act against the anticipated Sand Plant while others feared it would be too inclusive and negatively impact the community.

The Act’s potential impact on agriculture was a key concern for many despite prior assurances that it would not affect it. Discussions at the commissioner meeting also delved into the separate issue of a Nuisance Act in which Commissioner Blansett voiced concerns over the terminology of ‘nuisance.’ As he further stated what he deemed a nuisance others may find acceptable and vice versa.

Commissioner Ruric Brandt noted that a workshop was proposed in January but had been overlooked until this point. There was some contention regarding whether the act had already passed in January or not. As a result more confusion ensued as various people sought clarity on the matter to be voted on.

Attorney William Gouger Jr. clarified that no decision regarding the Sand Plant or any other regulation can be made without the resolution of the Power’s Act. Chairwoman Linda Mason asked Gouger if the board was to vote on the Power’s Act and then the Sand Plant regulation or just the first. Gouger advised the board could vote on both if agreed upon but would still need a 2/3 majority to make a regulation on the Sand Plant after successfully opting into the Power’s Act.

Brandt emphasized the aim to control excavation without preventing it, ensuring compliance with location standards. Meanwhile, the board was divided and many weighed how to engage the Power’s Act solely for the Sand Plant for fear of broader usage in the future. The discussion underscored a need to prevent unintended broader applications but to secure a way to support the community.

Residents voiced their concerns; among them, Dr. Davies of Grundy County highlighted the need to protect citizens’ rights. Commissioner Paul Schaffer recounted an instance of a quarry turned dump that affected surrounding areas adversely. Additional concerns were raised by several attendees, emphasizing clear definitions and clarity in language for any proposed act.

Amid the discord, it was made clear that the Board’s decision pivoted on the Power’s Act. Following a vote, it failed to pass with the required 2/3 majority. The Workshop on the Power’s Act was scheduled for November 7 at 5 PM, indicating a follow-up and deeper exploration of the contentious topic for a resolution come the November meeting. See next week’s article on the Power’s Act workshop for more information regarding the board’s discussion.

The Marion Tribune – November 16, 2023