“Polk County will be the premier County in Northwest Georgia to live, work, and raise a family, with an open and efficient government which works with its citizens, local businesses and organizations to facilitate thoughtful economic growth and prosperity.”
The above words, which appear as the first sentence of the vision statement of the Polk County, Georgia website, ring hollow to many who are presently watching as the bureaucrats of this county not only fail to facilitate the prosperity of one of its resident families, but actively thwart it. After losing employment during the COVID-19 pandemic response, Tim and Amy Leslie researched county codes to ensure compliance, then spent almost all of their life savings to purchase a parcel of land and an RV to live in. The family of four raised chickens and goats, and started a vegetable garden. This thrifty homestead would provide economic security for their family, they reasoned, and support their goal of building a mortgage-free home.
Local authorities and code enforcement thought otherwise and, in spite of clearly defined code that permits RV living, the Leslie family was threatened with seizure of their assets and steep fines if they continued to use their own private property to house their family. The Institute for Justice has accepted this case, waging a lawsuit on their behalf, but how many other families fall through the cracks, unable to afford the high costs of having their day in court?
Shutting down and stifling an economy while driving up the debt-to-GDP ratio with trillion-dollar, pork-filled stimulus packages cannot fail to have devastating impacts on the overall economy. Even if one doesn’t live in California or New York, the impact of the lockdowns on those massive state economies will eventually spill over onto the broader economic landscape. It is impossible to tell exactly how devastating this will be, but the possibilities are grim. The importance of HOA-type standards and codes that simply serve to preserve aesthetic considerations and avoid minor annoyances are a worthwhile question to consider when facing a very real possibility of economic collapse.
Governments have not been afraid to mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19 by interfering with the private sector. Moratoriums on rent and mortgages are leaving many property owners and small banks to bear the brunt of poor government policy. This leads to the question, what sacrifices are government institutions making to ensure that the citizens under their governance do not suffer undue distress? Property tax moratoriums and flexibility with land use and zoning codes might serve to alleviate hardships. With the shut down of many schools, funded by property taxes, savings on expenses to run the physical facilities would seem to further justify this. Yet it would seem that Polk County does not see fit to consider these measures for the well being of its citizenry, nor do other Georgia counties.
Perhaps the time has come for the residents of counties across the state to take their local officials to task. Interviews with county commissioners and city council members by affiliate leadership can provide a clear understanding—if you do not represent our values, we will find someone who does. To the residents of Polk County, GA, if you need any assistance in this regard, The Libertarian Party of Georgia is ready and willing to help.
For readers who would like to assist the Leslie family in their struggle for justice, here’s their GoFundMe.
Note: The author reached out to Polk Co. Commissioners for comment. The chairman provided the sole response claiming that Mr. Leslie does not own the property and doubling down on arguments that the family is violating zoning ordinances. This seems to contradict claims from Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil stating, “Mr. Leslie owns the property on which he situated his camper. And as a result, he has the right to live there, as long as he’s not harming anybody through his use.”
A reminder that opinions expressed by guest writers and contributors represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, nor of any institutions or organizations with which the contributor may be affiliated.