July 19 was mostly a bad night for developers in Jackson County as the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to deny rezoning bids for two controversial residential projects in West Jackson and one smaller project near Commerce.
In a marathon three-hour meeting before a room packed with red-shirted citizens, the BOC voted to deny land use map changes for a proposed 340-lot subdivision on 170 acres at Boone Rd. and Hwy. 332 near Hoschton. It also voted to deny a rezoning to R-1 for a 99-lot development on 84 acres on Creek Nation Rd. near Jefferson. The BOC also turned down a much smaller proposal to subdivide 10 acres on Dan Waters Rd. near Commerce for three housing lots.
All three proposals drew fire from over 20 citizens who spoke during the meeting about growth issues in the county.
Many of those who spoke said that they weren't against development in general, but that the county should slow down the pace of residential growth.
Most of those who spoke said they had moved to Jackson County from Gwinnett County in recent years to get away from high-density subdivisions and the resulting traffic problems.
"Don't Gwinettify our Jackson," said Cindy Smith to applause from the crowd.
Several citizens who spoke pointed to how rapid growth in recent years was impacting the West Jackson Area, citing the mobile classrooms recently put in front of some area schools and problems with traffic on many West Jackson Area roads.
Others also commented about the changing aesthetics of the area due to development.
"This feels like the death of small town America," said one speaker, citing the song "Small Town" by John Mellencamp.
Density was a major point of contention for those opposed to the subdivisions.
"Keep dense subdivisions on major roads and not on small feeder roads," said Tawny B. King, executive director of The Open Space Council for Jackson County.
Multiple speakers called on the county to take a pause in development.
That idea did get some support by the BOC as it agreed, in an unrelated proposal from county staff, to limit future zoning actions to only eight per month, an action that should slow down the pipeline of proposed projects coming before the Jackson County Planning Commission and BOC.
The board also approved an amendment to the county's Unified Development Plan that tightens up some rules, such as requiring open space subdivisions to have both public water and public sewer and to no longer allow open space subdivisions in AR zoning districts. It also does away with master planned developments in the county and amends housing density and minimum lot widths.
Although the BOC did turn down controversial projects, it did approve other zoning actions. Among those, it gave final zoning approval, with conditions, for a 62-lot development on 113 acres on County Farm Road near Jefferson. That project was initially delayed last year after developers found part of an old landfill on the property.
In other action, the board approved:
• a rezoning from A-2 to A-R for 4.5 acres at 833 Seagraves Mill Rd. to divide the property into two tracts.
• a map change for 5 acres at 644 Chandler Bridge Rd. to divide the property into two lots.
• a special use for a Verizon tower at 1524 Old State Rd.
• special use permission for new county radio communication towers at 515 Stan Evans Dr., 11917 Lewis Braselton Blvd., and 5217 Traditions Way.