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County denies townhome development
Residents turn out in opposition
The Bryan County Courthouse is in Pembroke. - photo by File photo

The Bryan County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted down Aug. 8 a request to rezone nearly 16 acres off Belfast River Road to allow for townhomes on the property.

The action came during the board’s meeting in Richmond Hill and before a crowd of about 40 residents who gathered for the public hearing on the matter.

The subject property is adjacent to the Wicklow subdivision on Belfast River Road. The developer, John Mowry, who lives in Bryan County and has developed many projects in the county, sought rezoning the land from A-5 agricultural to R-3 multifamily, in order to build 37 townhomes on the property.

The townhomes would be built on almost 6 acres, while the remaining acreage would contain a large lagoon, dog park and other amenities.

Mowry was represented at the meeting and public hearing by Savannah real estate attorney Howard B. Yellin, who told commissioners that studies had shown multifamily developments needed less infrastructure and typically caused less traffic disruption.

That didn't sit well with the commissioners or any of residents gathered for the public hearing.

Only Mowry and Yellin spoke in favor of the rezoning, even though Mowry had offered to delay the construction until 2019. The planning and zoning commission had recommended disapproval of the project, as did the planning staff.

"Just because you can build something, doesn't mean you should," local developer and builder Tim Gaylor told the commissioners during the public hearing.

Commissioners noted that when the mine operation on the property, which would become the lagoon on the property, was previously approved, Mowry said the property would "most likely" be used for a single-family homes.

Mowry argued that market conditions change and no conditions were put on the project when the mine operation was given the green light.

Yellin said his client would be open to reasonable conditions put on the rezoning to ensure the project would aesthetically look like the commissioners wanted it to.

But that offer and renderings of the proposed project were not enough to sway commissioners.

Also before the commissioners was the approval for phase plats for three previously approved planned unit developments, Dunham Marsh Magnolia Hill and Watergrass.

Much discussion centered on the need for traffic studies for the various phases.

Dunham Marsh developer Brett Turner asked to speak when it appeared the board might delay his plat approval for at least 30 days until a traffic study was done and furnished to the county.

Turner said he had satisfied all conditions of the county's ordinance.

"I don't think it is appropriate,” he said. “A traffic study should be obtained when the project is rezoned, not when you are going through the normal plat process.

After some additional discussion, the three plats were conditionally approved, pending the receipt of a traffic study and any other information requested by the planning staff.

In other business, the commissioners approved:

A construction bid for the new animal shelter in North Bryan for $344,348 and awarded it to Holland and Holland

Set millage rates for 2017: unincorporated areas of Bryan County 9.016; Pembroke, 9.016; Richmond Hill, 7.99; public education, 15.345; aggregate sum in unincorporated Bryan County, 24.361; aggregate sum in Pembroke, 24.36; aggregate sum in Richmond Hill, 23.335

Reappointed Donald Singleton to the Bryan County Family and Children Services board and appointed Denis Scott to the board.

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