County approving certain subdivisions; others oppose neighbors, P&Z board

When the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners acted on zoning applications for residential developments in early August, the one approved was for the plan most densely populated with housing and closest to Statesboro, where it can be connected city ​​water and sewer.

JCT Investments LLC’s proposal to place 91 townhouse units on approximately 11 acres at Burkhalter and Harville Roads has drawn some questions, but no public opposition from neighbors. Much of the site was previously zoned HC, for freeway commercial uses, and the developers’ application for an R-3 multifamily residence change received a 4-0 recommendation for approval from the named Planning and Zoning Commission. before the elected board of directors. Final approval of the commissioners 6-0 on August 2.

Meanwhile, two proposals to turn tracts of farmland into subdivisions for multiple single-family homes, requiring a move from agricultural AG-5 to residential R-25, have faced strong opposition.

“We urgently need development and homes in Bulloch County,” Bubba Hunt, owner of RE/MAX Eagle Creek Realty, told county commissioners. “I can give you some stats to let you know where we are.”

He was asking the commissioners for approval – unsuccessfully – of a required zoning change for Eagle Creek Construction to create 44 residential lots on 42.5 acres at 6417 Arcola Road. That request had previously prompted a 4-0 denial recommendation from the planning and zoning board, also following a denial from county staff after their review.

But elected commissioners must make the final decision, and Hunt pleaded for them to approve more projects that will help meet demand for more affordable housing.

Limited supply

In the first seven months of 2019, realtors listed 806 homes for sale in Bulloch County and sold 597, or 74% of inventory, but in the first seven months of 2022, only 605 homes were listed and 527 sold, or 87% of inventory, he says.

Meanwhile, the average cash value of a home in the county has fallen from around $175,000 in 2019 to around $277,000 this year, according to its data.

“The price has gone up astronomically in Bulloch County. …,” Hunt observed. “When prices go up due to supply and demand, it takes a certain buyer out of the market, which is…first time buyers, either a USDA loan, or someone getting an FHA loan, or any type of loan they would need closing cost assistance None of these people are in a position to buy a home right now.

People with homes listed at $300,000 and under in Bulloch County have received cash offers from across the country. So it’s a seller’s market and they don’t have to pay closing costs, he said.

Hunt also mentioned “the mega factory,” meaning Hyundai has announced plans to build an electric vehicle and battery factory, which is expected to employ more than 8,000 people, at the North County Regional Industrial Mega Site. Brian. He said he doesn’t see home prices coming down anytime soon.

“I’m just asking you to take that into account when you’re looking at development now,” Hunt told the commissioners. “Listen, I love our farming community and I understand the frustration…but are we going to accept this, or are we going to send it to another community?”

As a small business owner, he is “looking for growth” and wants it to come to Bulloch and not other counties, such as Bryan and Effingham.

Agricultural concerns

But Dennis Akins, whose farm includes a field next to the 42.5-acre site on Arcola Road, said the backs of 14 of the 44 proposed home sites would be just across the fence.

“As a farmer, I’m worried about the kind of complaints I’m going to get from these 44 houses when I start farming and dust flies through this barrier or I wring my chicken litter or my manure cow will start to smell, everything,” Akins said.

Traffic on Arcola Road already makes it difficult to get in and out of his fields, and 44 houses, he argued, would make traffic “unbearable”.

“I know you as commissioners have a very difficult job between wanting growth and knowing what’s good for the county, but where will it stop?” Akins asked.

Gwinea Burns, who lives about three-quarters of a mile on Arcola Road, said she and her husband moved there last year. But her daughters have homes on either side, with the whole family group occupying about 23 acres, she said, which her late father bought about 15 years ago.

“I grew up in Effingham County when Effingham County was a rural county,” Burns said. “It’s not a rural county anymore. That’s why we sold our house last year in Rincon and moved to my father’s land, back to a rural community.

Along with fears of losing what remains of Bulloch County’s rural character, she and others who have spoken out in opposition have expressed concerns about the burden more residents will place on Bulloch County’s public services. . Burns mentioned the time it takes for the emergency medical service to respond to rural calls, and Akins noted that more residents will place more demands on schools, the hospital and the sheriff’s department.

On a motion by Commissioner Curt Deal – who told Hunt he appreciated his feedback and contributions to the community – seconded by Commissioner Ray Mosley, council unanimously rejected Eagle Creek Construction’s rezoning application. .

Proposal withdrawn

Another proposal, filed on behalf of owner Greg T. Sikes, would have created 87 residential lots on 75.7 acres on Slater Hagan Road. It was also on the August 2 agenda. But after a show of opposition from area residents at the previous meeting of the planning and zoning board, this proposal was never voted on by the commissioners. It was withdrawn by the promoter or owner before their meeting.

At the July 14 planning and zoning board meeting, a few neighborhood residents spoke in favor of the Eagle Creek proposal, while a few others spoke against it. But at least five citizens spoke out against Sikes’ property proposal on Slater Hagan Road and 24 others registered to speak in opposition but later forfeited their opportunity, according to minutes of the council’s meeting. planning.

‘Open rural space’

In fact, county planning and development staff, when reviewing applications for Arcola Road and Slater Hagan Road, had recommended denial of both based on designation by the Bulloch County Comprehensive Plan. of these areas as “rural open space” in the Future Land. Use the map.

“As far as staff is concerned, we have a future growth plan on which we base our recommendations, generally speaking, unless there is a compelling reason not to,” the CEO said this week. director of planning and development, James Pope. “So right now that’s what we’re tracking, and those in this last meeting had a lot of opposition, but those were outside the growth area identified in the overall plan.”

“Suburban Corridor”

Thus, the only rezoning application to allow for a major housing development that received the green light from planning staff, planning council and commissioners was the 91 townhouse proposal from JCT Investments. Unlike the rejected projects, which would have required private water systems and septic systems, it will be connected to Statesboro water and sewer lines, recently extended to this area by the arrangement of a non-residential neighbor, Optim Orthopedics.

JCT developers agreed to 35 special conditions placed on the project by zoning staff and negotiated changes to two other conditions. In the county’s master plan, it fits into what’s called a “suburban corridor,” class attorney Steve Rushing told the commissioners.

“I would note that we don’t take any agricultural land either,” he said.