The two formed Preserve Rural Milton with the mission to protect the green space and rural setting of their city in response to the recent boom of development. At the end of 2013, Milton officials said about 900 new residential units were planned to be built in 2014.
“Everywhere you look there’s another house [being built],” Rencher said. “I don’t know how our two-lane roads are going to handle this, much less our schools.”
She wrote up a petition on change.org for the city to develop a Preserve Rural Milton initiative. The petition garnered about 1,200 signatures in two months. At least 1,000 people have viewed the Preserve Rural Milton’s website, which went live in mid-January, Rencher said.
“We’ve had a really strong response from the community,” she said. “We’ve sold like 300 yard signs, and we can’t even keep them in stock. There are a lot of people engaging.”
Rencher grew up in a small town in Alabama surrounded by farmland and moved to Milton about six years ago. She said she wants Milton to be a place where her daughter can grow up to appreciate land, nature and wildlife and not be just surrounded by homes.
Though city council members unanimously approved a five-month moratorium on rezoning applications across multiple residential districts in Milton on Feb. 3, Rencher said the moratorium will not have an impact on the abundance of homes being developed that don’t require any rezoning application. She said the issues the city faces should not just be focused on preventing high-density housing.
“I realized basically what needed to happen was more about land conservation than anything,” Rencher said. “There really hadn’t been much focus on how to save large pieces of land.”
Laboda said, “First and foremost, we don’t want to see the beauty of the area lost. Secondly, we don’t want to see large-land owners having to sell their farmland or pastureland because they can’t afford it anymore or because they’re too old to work it anymore. There are other viable options that we can look at to try to help preserve that land.”
She has lived in the Milton area since 1991, before cityhood, and said she has always appreciated the cow pastures and the homes with show horses in the front yards.
Though Preserve Rural Milton is still in its formative stages, the group is working to develop certification as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit while reaching out to city leaders and residents alike.
Laboda said the purpose of the nonprofit designation is to be able to raise money for preserving the land within Milton and also for possible future land purchases to go into a land trust. Rencher said the group would like to develop educational material for the public and eventually host regular community meetings. For more information, visit www.preserveruralmilton.org.