DAYTON, Tenn. — A bill that many residents feared would bring new government hassles into their lives is soundly shot down Tuesday in Rhea County as commissioners bar the proposal from their agenda next week.
The nine-member panel faces an overly warm conference room packed with more than 70 people, some of whom are standing. Through window panes to a hallway they see another 50 rural men in overalls and ballcaps, with a few womenfolk, too — universally opposing a police powers“nuisance” bill offered by Commissioner Bill Hollin.
By David Tulis / NoogaRadio 92.7 FM 95.3 FM HD4
There are few signs of support for the nuisance proposal by Mr. Hollin — which is assailed almost in the first breath by Jim Reed, who condemns it as overbroad and unfit for the agenda. Commissioner Terry Broyles’ motion to keep the resolution off the agenda wins a quick second.
“For me, this is not even a piece of paper I want to see go on the agenda,” Mr. Reed says, “because it doesn’t address the only thing I would consider looking at to start with, and that’s a health issue.” People who live in subdivisions already have restrictions, and if you don’t, he says, “You live on a piece of property that you can do with as you please.”
Mr. Hollin’s bill should focus only on real threats to human health, he says. “This piece of paper does not do that at all.”
The Hollin resolution, a cut and paste of two provisions from the Tennessee code annotated’s municipal powers title, would have given the county authority 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 *** ” and allowed it other “police powers.”
That sweeping language terrifies these Tennesseans northeast of Chattanooga, a vast majority of whom voted for the Trump revolution against the nation’s commercial and financial establishment.
A farming woman who refuses to state her name says she’d been anxious. “It wasn’t explained well enough for us to fully comprehend where they’re going,” she says. “Are they going to take my rights away?”
Zoning-free county intends to keep prosperity
County Executive George Thacker is preoccupied tonight with shepherding a new plant in Rhea County that will burn waste and prolong the life of a landfill. He comes to the work session, his ideas on the police powers bill already settled — and his opposition fixed.
“I was planning on vetoing it if it gained any traction,” Mr. Thacker says. “People are here because they don’t want this law to pass. This law, I think it really got out of hand with what’s happening. *** As soon as it got brought up, it got taken off the table.”
But doesn’t Mr. Thacker want new executive powers?
“No, I don’t. We work for the taxpayers. That’s who our boss is. We need to make them happy. Whatever they want is what we need to do. And the majority has said — has ruled tonight, clearly. But I’ve had multiple phone calls this week on what I was going to do tonight. But I’d already polled the commission and they are totally against this.”
The lighthandedness of civil government is a draw for the larger world to look at Rhea County, he suggests.
“We don’t have any zoning laws, and we’re going to keep it that way, as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Thacker says. He agrees that being zoning free is part of prosperity and a hope for the county. “If you buy a piece of property, you can do what you want with your piece of property,” he declares.
Quick work by Spring City building contractor Joe Paige ignited strong public interest in the measure on Friday. “I’ve attended these meetings for over three years, and this was the largest crowd I have ever seen,” says Mr. Paige, a refugee from courageous regulators in Tampa Bay, Fla. “My faith in the people of East Tennessee/ Rhea county has been reaffirmed. All glory to God for His providence and the defeat of this assault on our God-given, natural rights of property.”
A nonplussed Mr. Hollin says his measure, offered now a second time, gives the county authority the city of Dayton already possesses under state law.
But panic ensued, Mr. Reed says. “We even have some people inside the city limits that thinks they are going to lose their business because this has been blown out of proportion so bad” by press reports.