A developer's request to have his property rezoned and annexed into the city of Fort Oglethorpe has been tabled for the time being after several residents expressed concerns that the project could magnify traffic and stormwater issues.
During the Fort Oglethorpe City Council meeting on Oct. 23, the board held a public hearing for the third and final reading of developer Justin Hunt's request to annex 18 acres at 990 Steele Road into the city, and rezone it from R-1 to R-5.
After hearing no opposition during the first two readings over that past month, multiple residents showed up on Oct. 23 to voice their displeasure with the proposed development that would add 60 homes to the area of Steele Road and Mack Smith Road.
"I have 18 acres there and I'm proposing 60 homes on 60 lots, which actually comes out to about three and a half homes per acre," Hunt said. "It will not be apartments, it'll be houses...I'm in the business of building homes and selling them and that's what I plan on doing. We're talking about building 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot homes...pretty nice homes in a pretty nice subdivision."
Resident Jason Hughes, who says he lives approximately 50 feet from the proposed development, was the first to point out the ongoing traffic issues surrounding the Mack Smith Road area, and claimed additional homes would add to that congestion.
"I'm already subjected to an enormous amount of road traffic that has at least doubled since I've owned that property...that's been about 10 years, maybe 11," Hughes said. "For me, I just totally object to this and I think a traffic study needs to be done before this goes any further to examine how much traffic is there now. More homes, more traffic...it's not what I'm interested in."
Residents also spoke about how narrow Steele Road is, and how it has shoulder issues and drop-offs in various areas.
Hunt says he understands some of the traffic concerns, and offered a partial solution.
"I live there, and I'm on Steele Road sometimes 15-20 times a day," Hunt said. "I'd love to see something done there to the road and to the intersection. I actually own the property there on the east side of Mack Smith Road and would be willing to donate it if it would help the city get something done there; a red light, round-a-bout, something...a three-way stop even."
Hunt was also questioned by one resident as to why the property would need to be rezoned.
"R-1 requires you to put a 70-foot-wide lot, and R-5 requires you a 50-foot-wide lot," Hunt explained. "I'm proposing 55-foot-wide lots, and that is the reason for the R-5. The amount of square-footage per lot is the same, so the R-5 is narrower lots."
Sandra Wallace, president of the Applebrook homeowners associate, claims there's already been an influx of new homes near Mack Smith Road over the past few years, and doesn't see the need for 60 more.
"We're up to 382 more homes that were developed within a time period from 2003," Wallace said. "These homes are going to add to an already existing problem that Steele Road and Mack Smith has. This is major problems, it's been going on for years. This daily traffic turning onto Mack Smith...you have to swing out to turnout onto these roads. It's a dangerous area."
Hunt addressed Wallace's concern about how troublesome it is pulling out onto Steele Road, claiming the issue isn't quite as bad as she claims.
"I'm on Steele Road, a lot. Most of the time, I can pull into the driveway of homes that I own and back out onto Steele Road, most of the time," Hunt said.
This statement garnered shaking heads, plenty of "no," and "nope" responses, as well as a "try again," from one resident.
In addition to traffic, stormwater runoff was also a concern for multiple residents in attendance.
Phyllis Williams, who's lived on Steele Road for more than 50 years, says stormwater has become an issue for her in recent years since other homes have been built in the area.
"I've been in that house 52 years," Williams said. "Now, I'm just a dumb old woman, but I know that my yard is wet and when it is not. I been there a long time and I could walk out in my driveway in a 100 years storm and there would be no water (in my driveway), but there is now."
Ultimately, the council voted 4-1 to delay both matters in favor of a traffic study to get specific numbers on the flow of vehicles traveling Mack Smith Road and Steele Road.
Public Works and Recreation Director Jeff Long said his crew would start the study on Tuesday, Oct. 24, and have numbers ready for the next meeting on Nov. 14.