Those hoping the Bulloch County Planning & Zoning Board will approve the rezoning application for a 4,682 acre tract of land in the south end of the county say there are no concrete plans to develop the area at this time.
The property, owned by GA 16 Bulloch, LLC, is currently zoned ‘agricultural,’ but will go before the Planning & Zoning Board on Thursday, September 8th at 6:00 P.M. following a request to have the zoning changed to ‘light industrial.’ The owner of the property, Dan Bradley, Jr. by way of GA 16 Bulloch, LLC, has retained Wes Taulbee and Laura Marsh of Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes, Marsh & Hodgin, LLC in Statesboro to facilitate the petition.
On behalf of their client, Taulbee and Marsh, along with Director of PR Karen Robertson of Robertson & Markowtiz in Savannah, spoke with AllOnGeorgia Tuesday in an effort to clear up what they say is misunderstanding circulating in the community.
“If the request is granted by the Commissioners on October 4th, nothing is going to happen on October 5th. They won’t start building the next day or anything of the sort. This simply gives the county and the state the ability to market the land to businesses and enterprises,” Marsh said.
The attorneys said standard economic development protocol requires the land to be zoned as they see fit prior to recruitment of companies. They said businesses aren’t interested in considering land and making plans for infrastructure when a zoning application is still pending.
“If Bulloch County wants to continue to try to attract good paying, environmentally sound industry, as we have in the past, this is the best possible opportunity to advance those interests,” Taulbee said in a press release. “We believe this property can be a tremendous asset to the citizens of Bulloch County and the State of Georgia as whole, and we look forward to providing additional information in the near future on how this request advances these interests.”
If the rezoning request is granted, and a company is recruited or becomes interested in the property, the company be required to go through the entire Planning & Zoning Board and Commissioner vote process all over again, a process proponents say would give the community yet another opportunity to share input.
Taulbee also noted that the County did not approach GA 16 Bulloch, LLC about the project. “This piece of property has been been on the map for this type of project since at least 2012 when it was filed as part of the Comprehensive Plan for the County,” he said.
Whether that’s enough for the opponents of the project is another story. The project has drawn fire from adjacent landowners who say they don’t want the area zoned for any time of development of that sort and fear for not only the groundwater availability, but also the endangered species and wildlife that would be displaced. Additionally, one third of the property is wetlands. Concerns also arose following the release of the Bulloch Department Review Impact Report which projected 8,000 cars per hour at peak hours and a need for additional infrastructure and county resources, like deputies and EMS.
According to the developmental reviews impact report, the project could bring $13,839,680 annually in property taxes, barring any exemptions awarded at a later date and would bring the property value to $1,525,000,000 at build out. Despite those large gains, there are no plans for GA 16 Bulloch, LLC to begin building or altering the land before any businesses are recruited either. Taulbee said the DRI report is simply a ‘worst case scenario at the absolute most’ scenario, and doesn’t necessarily mean resources will be needed or used in that manner or capacity.
Taulbee and Marsh emphasized that the landowner is willing to agree to contingency conditions put forth by the Commissioners to protect adjoining landowners, protection of the wetlands, and to offer green space, should the rezoning request be granted. Those conditions,which would be attached to the land, and not the property owner if ever sold, are expected to be released to the public this Friday or Tuesday of next week.
The pressing concern, they say, resides in the ‘opportunity’ before the county at this time. “Lots of national and international companies are investing in this region of the state because of the close proximity to the port. Right now, we have a landowner who is willing to work the county and agree to some conditions to make sure other affected parties are pleased. If the request is denied and the land is sold, the next property owner may not be so willing,” Marsh said.
Whether or not the rezoning request will be granted, and what is to become of the property after a decision, still remains to be seen.
Here’s what will happen next:
- Tuesday, September 8, 6:00 P.M. – The Planning & Zoning Board will hear from both sides and make a recommendation.
- With a zoning application of this magnitude, the Planning & Zoning Board decision is only ‘advisory,’ meaning, the Commissioners have the ultimate vote, regardless of what P&Z decides.
- The Commissioners will vote on October 5th at the regular Commission meeting at 5:30 P.M. at the Annex
- The Commissioner can vote to approve the request, deny the request, or vote to approve the request with conditions set forth and agreed to by the Commissioners and the landowner.
In the mean time, a website has been set up to educate the community.