People interested in changing the zoning laws in Columbia County in order to protect our springs and rivers and our rural way of life gathered in Lake City yesterday Jan. 21. First they drew attention to the industrial chicken factory currently being built within a mile of Fort White by exhibiting signs in front of the county commissioners’ meeting place on Duval Street, and then by attending the meeting and speaking to the issue.
The group did not go unnoticed as three newspaper reporters attended both the outside activity and the meeting inside, and Gainesville Channel 20 shot a clip and interviewed OSFR Policy Director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson. Also the Executive Director of SRWMD Noah Valenstein was in attendance and spoke at length after the meeting with our policy director. Nature photographer and environmentalist John Moran was also present recording the event on film.
OSFR members had a strong representation at this event, under the able leadership of Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson who organized it and who was permitted unlimited time at the podium in a good communication between the public and the Commission. More than 12 speakers voiced their opinion, eight of whom were members. Hats off to Sue Karcher for presenting the CHICKEN in the chicken suit in a talented and effective manner.
Even though the JTC Chicken Farms was not on the agenda, Commission Chair Bucky Nash gave ample time to speak to any individual who wished, even allowing some to speak multiple times. The board was nothing but patient and the attitude was one of open-mindedness and a willingness to listen.
Positive results came from this meeting, an important one being the BOCC decision, at Merrillee’s insistence, to allow a stakeholder workshop to address the AG-3 zoning issue regarding recognition of threats to rivers, springsheds and aquifer high recharge areas. This meeting would include all interested parties, environmentalists, farmers, residents, zoning authorities and would be open to anyone with an interest in the zoning laws.
This has quickly developed into an issue than transcends Columbia County–it equally pertains to aquifer threats state-wide and beyond. Intensive factories, agriculture or otherwise, must not be constructed and operated on high recharge areas of our water supply or in springsheds.
Members of OSFR can be very proud of their group for what was accomplished at this meeting. Thanks to those who came out and spoke, and especially to the strong leadership and tireless and unending work of Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson who has spent countless hours on this issue and an unbelievable amount of effort. She has made a difference.