The Winder City Council approved annexation and rezoning requests Tuesday, Dec. 3, that will allow for the development of an apartment complex, which advocates for the project say will provide much-needed workforce housing inside the city.

The council voted 3-2 — with councilmen Sonny Morris and Chris Akins opposed and councilman Michael Healan absent — to annex and rezone a 20.16-acre tract on Midland Circle and to rezone another 19 acres on East Midland Avenue in order to build the complex. The property is located across from the Harrison Poultry feed mill on East Midland Avenue. The request was made by LAB PI Group, LLC and investor Wes Vankirk.

The approval comes with several conditions from the city’s planning board and staff. Among those are that the development will be gated and have a maximum of 341 units, and that the building exteriors cannot have vinyl siding. The one-bedroom units will have to be at least 850 square feet, the two-bedroom units 1,100 square feet and the three-bedroom units 1,300 square feet.

The complex will also have to include a clubhouse building with a minimum of 6,000 square feet, a fitness center, swimming pool, dog park and outdoor commons area.

It’s the second time in the past four months that the council has approved a rezoning of land for a housing development. In August, the council voted 4-3 (with Mayor David Maynard breaking the tie in favor) to rezone 23.72 adjacent to Bellingrath Plantation on Highway 211 NW in order for a townhome development with up to 131 units to be built.

Jennifer Houston, the Barrow County School System’s assistant superintendent for business services, warned the council during a public comment period Tuesday about the impact the development could have on the school system. She said it could lead to more crowding in nearby schools and could also have a negative impact on the school system’s tax base.

“The economy is good now, but will the builder have to change (the model for the development) based on future economic conditions,” Houston asked rhetorically.

Morris echoed those concerns, and Akins said he was concerned about the property’s location across from the feed mill and close proximity to railroad tracks.

Vankirk pushed back on the school system’s concerns, saying the development would ultimately help grow the tax base. Vankirk employs around 100 people at his downtown business, Vankirk Electric, and he told the planning board many of them were need of a higher-level place to rent in the area. Police chief Jim Fullington also advocated for the project before the planning board, telling the panel he had more than a dozen officers that the apartments would be suitable for.

Jeremy Hershberger, an agent for Vankirk, told the planning board the bulk of the apartments would be two bedrooms and would rent for around $1,200 a month.

“I want to do what’s good for the city,” Vankirk told the council. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, I don’t want to do anything harmful to the community.”

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