Jackson County Courthouse

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners slammed on the brakes to residential development in August, passing a 45-day moratorium on new housing projects in unincorporated areas of the county.

The board will consider extending the residential moratorium when it meets Sept. 20. That could be extended up to a year, a situation that has left some development projects in limbo.

Citing the rapid housing growth in the county, the BOC suspended all R-1, R-2 and R-3 map amendment applications and rezoning applications. It also suspended issuing all land disturbance permits for grading subdivisions and other housing developments.

That has left some projects up-in-the-air, area some developers say.

Land developer Ben Drerup of Genuine Mapping & Design in Jefferson said that some of his clients had recently had property rezoned for residential projects, but had not gotten a land disturbance permit yet, a situation that leaves them with newly-purchased property they can't touch.

"I have clients who have borrowed substantially to acquire property that is now no good for anything but agriculture…assuming they extend the moratorium," he said.

The moratorium came as a surprise at the Aug. 16 BOC meeting, added to the agenda at the last minute.

"Obviously, it hurts my business and local contractors as well when you put the brakes on a whole local industry without warning," Drerup said, noting that many residential developers are small businesses that connect with other small businesses on projects.

The moratorium doesn't affect industrial or commercial projects in the county, nor does it impact land inside the county's nine municipalities which have their own zoning rules and regulations.

"We are accepting all rezoning for commercial, industrial, agricultural, and AR/MH," said Jackson County public development manager Jamie Dove. "Our LDPs (land disturbance permits) are being accepted for commercial and industrial."

The move comes after several months of public pushback against additional housing in the county. One of the main concerns has been the impact large housing developments are having on the Jackson County School System.

Much of the pushback has come from the fast-growing West Jackson area around Braselton and Hoschton.

It was commissioner Ralph Richardson Jr. who represents that area who made the motion to approve the moratorium..

“In light of the fast-moving growth that’s coming our way and all that’s been approved in the past and started, I’d like to see us take some time to consider this and see where we’re at,” Richardson said.

 The moratorium isn't the first in the area in recent years.

In May, the Banks County Board of Commissioners issued a 90-day moratorium on new subdivisions. In 2020, it issued a moratorium on apartments and multi-housing projects.

Also in 2020, the City of Hoschton had a residential moratorium in effect for several weeks.

In 2019, Madison County issued a housing moratorium for several months.

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