BLACK BOX SPECIAL REPORT: JOURNALISM UNDER ATTACK GEORGIA, PART x

Community activists, organizations shape the future of Milton

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In Milton, two political camps are vying for the hearts and minds of residents this election season. Both advocate against runaway development, but they split over growth strategies, and each has its own message. Debate between the two factions has increased to the point where each has filed ethics complaints. Those cases are still pending.

Both factions have proven they can summon large crowds of like-minded residents to sign petitions or speak out on issues before the City Council.

The wedge issue is the city’s proposed Conservation Subdivision Ordinance, which would allow smaller residential lots in certain cases where adjoining land is set aside for green space.

In general, conservation subdivisions allow developers to congregate housing into one or several areas of a site and commit the other acreage to green space. The density of the housing allowed on the site can vary, but the overall development would still conform to agricultural zoning limits.

Milton resident Francia Lindon has been involved in land-use issues since the city’s early days. She favors conservation subdivisions as a means of preserving large swaths of green space.

Lindon was a co-founder of Milton Grows Green which launched in 2008. Today, the organization is a city-sponsored committee that participates in a variety of green projects.

Lindon today affiliates with a separate local group, Preserve Rural Milton.

As a purveyor of information, she says, Preserve Rural Milton has cited its sources for information disseminated on its web pages. The websites, now fairly inactive, have used sources, such as articles gathered from the Land Trust Alliance, different environmental groups or newspaper accounts of land preservation initiatives underway in other cities.

But, Lindon said, sometimes the posts on the site grew so nasty, some were removed. She also said she does not endorse anonymous posts.

“Anonymous ‘flame throwers’ have zero credibility,” she said. “The public has no way of knowing whether the comment comes from someone with an axe to grind or a vested interest. Anonymity is neither transparent nor courageous.”

On the opposing side of the issue, the Milton Coalition stands firmly against the ordinance in its current form.

Tim Becker, who identifies as Milton Coalition’s sole member, blogs regularly and has generated a sizeable following. He opines that the Conservation Subdivision Ordinance would provide for cluster housing, provide a foothold for high-density housing and accelerate development of marginal land.

He says he backs up his blogs by providing video from City Council meetings and excerpts from meeting minutes. He said he sometimes performs his own research, collecting data on traffic analysis, for example.

“I have attended nearly every City Council meeting over the last two years and many dozens of other government meetings, so I am conversant in the issues facing our city,” he said.

He said his blog includes contact information for readers to respond, though the responses are not posted.

“I often hear from supporters, but do not recall anyone contacting me that had an opposing view,” he said. “I read every email sent to me and often respond.”

Becker said he takes accuracy seriously.

“I rely mostly on primary source materials for my blog posts,” he said. “My readers tell me that my posts are well-reasoned and well-written. My readers know that I have invested a lot of time and effort in understanding the issues and developing an informed perspective on those issues.”

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This story has been updated to correct the current status of Milton Grows Green.


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