published Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Some Marion County residents wary of regional planning

Marion County Commissioner Gene Hargis
Marion County Commissioner Gene Hargis
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JASPER, Tenn. — Some Marion County residents have asked county commissioners to educate themselves on the Thrive 2055 program before voting on anything connected to it.

Thrive 2055 is a Chattanooga-based planning endeavor to create a 40-year growth and development plan for a 16-county area over the next three years.

Last week, Channing Kilgore, associate pastor at South Whitwell Baptist Church in Whitwell, Tenn., asked commissioners to "hold off" on approving anything related to the initiative until they fully investigate it.

He said local governments could accept grant money for various projects through Thrive 2055 with terms that include "small writing," which eventually could cost the county board its governing authority.

"I hope that raises a red flag issue with [the board] because it does with me," he said. "People want to move forward. It's not that we want to stay backwoods people and not encourage any development. That's not the issue."

Kilgore said Thrive 2055 can be connected to the United Nations' Agenda 21 program.

Agenda 21, approved by the U.N. in 1992, is a voluntary plan to promote sustainable development around the world.

"It's the United Nations' way of getting authority and power over local governments through zoning regulations and other laws that are passed," Kilgore said. "They don't want to recognize state lines, county lines or city lines. They want to have a body above and over everything."

Last spring, the Alabama Legislature passed a law banning policies traceable to Agenda 21.

Commission Chairman Les Price said he wasn't sure Kilgore's concerns were a matter for a county board to handle.

"This sounds like the sky is falling," he said. "This is something where some people are saying this is the first step to a one-world government. I don't think this is the forum for that."

Greg Juster, a Chattanooga resident who joined Kilgore at last week's meeting, told commissioners the county government is the place to put a stop to both initiatives, not the state Legislature.

"I'm not a nutcase," he said. "All you have to do is Google Agenda 21 and you'll get both sides. As soon as you start talking about this, you sound like a nutcase. All you have to do is study it."

Commissioner Gene Hargis said he would like to do some research on the concerns Kilgore and Juster raised.

"I don't know enough about it to even speak to it," he said.

"If any [commissioner] isn't familiar with Agenda 21, I think they should study it from all sources and not by what's handed out by one group or one person," Price said. "I'm not taking a stand one way or another. I'm just saying [the board] doesn't have the knowledge to make any kind of decision."

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