Barrow County plans to market for sale a portion of county-owned land off Highway 82 next to the Barrow County Airport that it paid off all remaining debt on last month.

The county board of commissioners voted May 12 to authorize county manager Mike Renshaw and staff to prepare a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit commercial and residential real estate marketing firms for the property.

The county purchased the 250 acres, through the Joint Development Authority, for $9.4 million in 2007 and had been making an annual debt-service payment of $1.04 million from the General Fund in recent years. Last month, the BOC voted to pay off the remaining $6.7 million in debt through use of county reserves and that final payment occurred April 30.

Renshaw and Lisa Maloof, the county’s director of economic development, will work on the RFP and selected firms will be interviewed and make presentations on their proposals. Recommendations to the JDA and BOC would then be made, and the BOC would have ultimate authority on the sale of the land.

Renshaw said the primary focus would be on the 186-acre portion to the north of Highway 82.

Commissioner Billy Parks asked if there would be concerns or restrictions on residential development on the property due to its proximity to the airport. Renshaw said the county’s Airport Hazard Overlay document would be used in vetting the proposals.

REZONING REQUEST IN BYPASS CORRIDOR APPROVED

Also at last week’s meeting, in a split vote, the BOC approved a request to rezone just under 29 acres at 142 Patrick Mill Rd., Winder, for a 28-lot single-family subdivision. The decision bucked a recommendation by the county planning commission and staff to deny the request because it did not support the county’s future land-use map, which calls for commercial/industrial development there because it lies in the future West Winder Bypass corridor.

The vote to approve the rezoning, without any conditions, was 5-2 with chairman Pat Graham and commissioner Rolando Alvarez opposed. Graham made an earlier motion to deny the request, but that failed by a 4-3 vote. Commissioner Isaiah Berry supported the motion to deny but then — based on the outcome of the first motion, he said — made and voted in favor of the motion to approve.

Attorneys for the applicant argued before both the planning commission in April and the BOC last week that commercial and industrial development on the property would not be suitable because it backs up to other residential zoning and the only access road to the property is a residential road.

Commissioner Bill Brown echoed those thoughts, and commissioner Joe Goodman said he did not support rejecting the request solely because it did not match the future land-use map.

Graham and Alvarez, though, said the county should follow the land-use map and suggested the state investment of some $80 million in the bypass project would be squandered if land were not carved out for commercial and industrial development along the corridor. Graham noted it was rare for the county to approve a residential rezoning without any conditions and that not allowing for more commercial and industrial development would only make property taxes higher on homeowners in the long run.

In a related vote, the board tabled a request, at the request of the applicant, to rezone five acres along the front of the property for three commercial lots.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business at last week’s meeting, commissioners:

•heard from chief financial officer Rose Kisaalita that the county is expected to finish Fiscal Year 2020 in a sound financial position despite the economic toll wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Through three quarters, the county had received about 97 percent of its budgeted property-tax revenue, Kisaalita said, adding that property taxes account for 44 percent of the General Fund budget. She acknowledged that local sales tax revenues, which make up 17 percent of the General Fund budget, would be impacted but said the county had received 76 percent of what it budgeted through eight months. Kisaalita said the April local-option sales tax (LOST) figures would be available at the end of May. In all, the county has spent 73 percent of its General Fund budget through three quarters and made all of its major one-time payments, Kisaalita said.

•approved an additional $447,184, utilizing remaining funds in a previously-approved contract, for milling and patching work on Thurmond, Double Bridges and Manning Gin roads.

•tabled a request, at the applicant’s request, for a change in conditions for a planned mixed-use residential/commercial development on Highway 124, southwest of its intersection with Highway 211 in Hoschton, until the next BOC meeting in June.

•approved the withdrawal of an applixation to rezone 15 acres on Doc McLocklin Road at Robertson Bridge Road in Statham for 11 single-family lots.

•approved a request to rezone just under 31 acres at 501 Argonne Rd., Winder, for a single-family residential subdivision.

•approved a request to rezone 51 acres at 1132 Clacktown Rd., Winder for a 46-lot single-family subdivision.

•approved the appointment of Bobby Ray Fowler to the county planning commission’s District 5 post to fill a vacant four-year term that will expire Dec. 31, 2022.

•reappointed Tommy Jennings to the Barrow County Library Board of Trustees for a three-year term that will expire June 30, 2023.

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