First of all, I would like to thank the Bryan County News for its recent support in our fight against the rezoning request for a multi-family development at 23152 Georgia Hwy 144 on Demeries Creek. I commend you for standing on the side of justice and agreeing that the construction of multi-family housing would be an acute disruption to our community and way of life. There are several issues that have arisen that I would very much like to address.
First, I would like to take issue with a view that was expressed in the paper by the county administrator. He suggests that the commissioners must look strongly at both sides, taking into consideration both the legal rights of the landowners and the concerns of the public.
Legal rights of the landowner? I would like to argue that point. Let’s be perfectly clear, this property was purchased just three years ago by the developers and they knew full well what the zoning constraints on this piece of property were at the time of purchase. Make no mistake; they knew then that AR-1 zoning would not allow for the construction of condominiums or town homes. With that being said, I do not see where the developers have a leg to stand on. In addition, we have the issue of spot zoning. I would like to directly quote a real estate law website, "Spot zoning occurs when a small area of land or section in an existing neighborhood is singled out and placed in a different zone from that of neighboring property… In some areas of the country the courts have found spot zoning illegal on the ground that it is incompatible with the existing land use-zoning plan or in an overall zoning scheme for the community."
This rezoning request most certainly falls under spot zoning. Furthermore, if all land owners have legal rights to do as they please with their property, what then is the purpose of zoning?
Would that not imply that all zoning is illegal; and if that is the case, why are our tax dollars being wasted on a Planning and Zoning Department and Board? I think we might have a double standard here. It seems that developers and those who are influential in this county can do as they please, but mere citizens, like you and I, are held to different standards. Our hired officials seem to be representatives for the developers rather than the people of this county.
Secondly, I would like to state some reasons why this development should not be approved by the Board of Commissioners. This 5 acre parcel of land is located in an area of the county that is made up of mostly 5-plus acre lots, which are zoned to allow one home per lot. So, this piece of property is essentially one lot in our neighborhood and their goal is to place 18 homes with a "shared vertical wall."
This would be similar to someone purchasing one lot in Redbird Creek or Strathy Hall and requesting to put multi-family housing on it. Also, this area has no public utilities available and the proposed development would have to have its own well and septic system. This is of extreme concern to the residents in this area. A large scale septic system is very risky. If this system fails to operate properly, our drinking water could become contaminated. Not to mention the contamination to the marsh, Demeries Creek, and the Medway River. This statement is not so far fetched. In fact, the homeowners at Two Way Fish Camp near Darien are battling this exact scenario. As we speak the septic system for their condominiums has failed and raw sewage is leaking into the ground water and the Altamaha River.
Third, I would like to address the Board of Commissioners directly. Many residents of our county have expressed a concern that our voice does not count. I, however, am an optimist and hope this is not the case. Commissioners, this is your chance to prove this talk untrue. You are elected officials put in office by a vote of confidence from your citizens. You are the voice of your people. I am begging you to hear our cry. No one in this county is "anti-growth"; we all want our community to grow and prosper. Everyone looks forward to new businesses, nice neighborhoods, bigger and better community services and the like. What we do not want is for our community to degrade, and become a place that no one wants to live. Please listen to our voices and restore our faith in democracy and government. Uphold the planning board’s recommendation and vote to deny this rezoning request!
Lastly, I would like to address the citizens of this county. It is time for us to speak up and put complacency aside. Many of us are unhappy with the decisions that have been made in the past in this county. Unfortunately, it is too late to change those outcomes. It is not too late, however, to make a difference for the future. Let’s get involved and make our desires known. Be pro-active on issues like growth, traffic, schools etc. A disconnect has formed between us and our leaders, and it is time to bridge this gap. I urge you to not only attend the March 6 Board of Commissioners meeting at 1:30 p.m., but also become active in future sessions and on future issues.