Friday, November 7, 2014

Evans Residents Rejected Development

EVANS, GA (Anibal Ibarra) - The land near Heggie’s Rock and Little Kiokee Creek are being saved for now. A proposal to re-zone a 190-acre tract of land that adjoins Heggie’s Rock into a residential area, which would have transformed the density from 1 house/5 acres to 4 houses/acre, failed.

If this area is re-zoned, the surrounding landowners would likely sell their properties for re-zoning, and the entire area would be developed into higher-density subdivisions.

Blanchard and Calhoun presented the projected development to Columbia County Planning Commission zoning hearing on Thursday, Nov 6th at the Evans Government Center Auditorium. The immediate neighbors and others spoke against the development. At one point the Chairman Jim Cox warned the audience he would order to clear the auditorium after voices were demanding to be heard.

The motion to approve the construction of 350 houses as part of the project failed because after being announced by one of the commissioners the others didn’t second it.

Some Comments from Staff Planning:

(1) The subject parcels are near Heggie’s Rock Preserve, an environmentally sensitive and unique natural asset. Being downstream from Heggie’s Rock, little elevated risk is posed by water-born pollutants from the development; however, care should be taken to prevent unauthorized access to the Preserve that could threaten sensitive biota.

(2) No variances from Code have been applied for, nor have any variances been extended or implied by the County. Conditions supplement but do not eliminate other code requirements. In case of conflicts, the more restrictive item shall prevail over the less restrictive item.

(3) Approval of a change in zoning classification makes no guarantee or approval of a minimum number of lots.

Summary and Recommendations

Applicant Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate requests the rezoning of three parcels (Tax Map 049 Parcels 028A, 028G, and 028H) totaling 215.6 +/- acres, located at 2406 William Few Parkway, from R-A (Residential Agriculture) to R-2 (Single Family Residential). The parcels are owned by Eugene Williamson.

The parcels lie along Little Kiokee Creek in a primarily R-A (Residential Agriculture) area downstream from Heggie’s Rock. The parcels are bounded by an asphalt plant to the south. County-owned property lies southwest of the parcels, between Heggie’s Rock and the asphalt plant. The remaining properties surrounding the parcels are R-A (Residential Agriculture).

The designated future land use for these parcels is low-density residential, which is intended to provide a transition zone between the medium-density residential development to the east where several PUD (Planned Unit Development) developments already exist, including Magnolia Valley Plantation, Riverwood Plantation, and Bartram Trail, and the agriculture and forestry uses farther to the west.

The R-A zoning district requires a minimum lot size of 2.5 acres, while the R-2 district allows lots as small as 10,000 square feet and requires County sewer service. There is currently no sewer service available to the parcel. The developer would be responsible for the costs associated with extending sewer service to the site.

The applicant intends to develop the site as a single-family residential subdivision and has submitted a conceptual plan for the site showing approximately 280 lots.

Staff recommends approval with conditions of the applicant's request to rezone three parcels from R-A (Residential Agriculture) to R-2 (Single-Family Residential).

Columbia County’s population increase has placed great development pressure on areas of the County that have been traditionally rural in character. Residential developments have been constructed near the subject parcels—Riverwood Plantation, Pine Bluff, Bartram Trail, etc.—that have set a precedent for more development of a similar density.

Access to public water and sewer are required in the R-2 (Single-Family Residential) district, so it would be a reasonable assumption that, if access to public utilities is possible, development is possible. As has been the case with several recent rezoning requests, the currently-adopted GMP may not adequately address the current state of development in the County.

The upcoming plan revision will likely see a change in future land use designation for this and many other areas of the County.

This proposal reflects a reasonable balance, provided that access to public water and sewer is made.

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