County tables Highway 53 subdivision zoning

Developer Darin Hardin answers questions from members of the Gordon County Commission regarding a request to rezone 131 acres near the Sonoraville community for a large subdivision.

It was a packed house in the conference room of the Gordon County Administration Building this week as members of the public filed in for a zoning hearing concerning 131 acres near Sonoraville.

A request from Darryl Edwards to rezone the property at 6624 Fairmount Highway from A-1 agricultural to R-4 high density residential was ultimately tabled by commissioners following statements from those both for and against the development.

“We’re in dire need for housing in Gordon County,” said Terry Brumlow, attorney for the applicants. “This would be a quality development in the county, and on sewer.”

The project would be the largest such development outside the Calhoun city limits in Gordon County with a proposed 525 multi-priced single-family houses and townhomes.

Developer Darin Hardin said the neighborhood would be “pedestrian friendly” with sidewalks, and said the situation of being in the county without the possibility of annexation, but on city sewer was unique and would be an advantage.

The application came with a recommendation for denial from the Gordon County Planning Commission and has drawn concern from residents in the area.

Attorney Bill Thompson expressed concerns about the unprecedented density of the homes in the proposed area, as well as the quality of the homes that might be built by regional developer Starlight Homes.

Jim Perkins, a senior manager at a local flooring manufacturer, said he believed such housing is vital to economic development in the area.

“My best employees drive 45 minutes to work,” Perkins said. “We need housing to drive people into our community.”

Hamilton Healthcare representative Todd Harrison shared Perkins’ sentiments with a 34,000-square-foot medical facility from his company planned in Gordon County that will bring in an estimated 50 healthcare jobs.

“It’s is an issue we hear about every day,” Harrison said of the local housing shortage.

Businessman Nathan Roberts told the commission he believed such a large development would eventually overwhelm the county school system.

“I don’t see the math in it,” Roberts said.

County Administrator Jim Ledbetter shared his concerns about limited access to the potential development for emergency services with only one public outlet in the current plan.

Developers told Ledbetter they had plans to add a gated access point on another end, while Hardin added he wasn’t opposed to adding another Highway 53 access point if it would be allowed by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Commission Chairwoman Becky Hood addressed concerns over highway safety at the entrance to any future development. Hardin and Edwards told Hood they had plans to request permission to build a turn lane on the highway, a plan that both Hood and Ledbetter expressed doubts about due to past difficulties in dealing with GDOT.

“Growth is challenging,” said Commissioner Bud Owens, who expressed concerns about traffic and eventual homeowners association requirements possibly not being sufficient.

Commissioner Bruce Potts said he leaned in favor of the development due to the need for affordable housing and said the long-term plan for the county school system allows for growth, but ultimately seconded a motion from Commissioner Owens to table the matter until the Nov. 2 meeting.

Another zoning matter was tabled until a later date at the request of Brumlow, as OWR LLC’s application to rezone 94 acres on Trimble Hollow Road will be heard on Dec. 7. The application is for a change from A-1 to I-2 heavy industrial zoning.

Brumlow cited shortages in materials as well as engineering and design resources as the cause of slowing down the company’s process. The commission agreed to table the matter.

Approved by the board was the rezoning of four acres on Covington Bridge Road from A-1 to RA-1 to build a house.

In other business, a hearing on the adoption of the county’s 2021 Hazard Mitigation Plan drew no public speakers.

County Emergency Management Director Courtney Taylor said that having a plan in place allows eligibility for grants. The plan was passed by a 5-0 vote form the board.

Added to the agenda Tuesday night was discussion of adding $16,910 to the county budget from reserve funds in order for the county to assist the Georgia State Patrol with radar equipment to be used in the county.

GSP officials say the equipment will only be used inside the county and will not be taken to other jurisdictions. The measure was approved unanimously by the commission.

The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 2. All meetings are open to the public.

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