Jefferson residents plan to share petitions with Jackson County and the municipalities, requesting a pause on future industrial development and a stop to the recently approved Vulcan Quarry expansion.
City and county governments to be addressed include the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, the Jackson County Planning Commission, Hoschton City Council, Braselton Town Council and the Jefferson City Council.
Brittany Odom and Lindsey Ivester, both residents of The Heritage at Jefferson, are among those creating the petitions. Odom is a member at-large and Ivester is the current president of The Heritage’s Homeowners Association (HOA).
Their initial efforts have been focused on Jefferson and Pendergrass, but they believe all municipalities in the county could benefit from a pause in industrial rezonings to allow time for increased infrastructure.
They are requesting a five-year moratorium on future industrial development at the county level and within each municipality, targeting the rapid rezoning of agricultural land to industrial land.
“We’ve got to catch our breath to adapt to what is already here, built and planned,” Ivester said. “We’re not against growth, but infrastructure is key to successful development — it’s about safety, accessibility and responsibility.”
“We the citizens are tired of having to constantly show up at every meeting to voice our opposition, especially when it seems that we have made it unequivocally clear that we are against any more industrial growth until a better plan can be put into place to prepare for the growth by updating infrastructure and keeping residential areas separate from industrial,” Odom added.
“Most of us came to this area . . . for a rural, safe, family-oriented, small-town community. No one who moved here did so to be a part of what is quickly becoming an industrial wasteland. That is why we are attempting to unite the community together to make our voices undeniably heard at both city and county levels that we do not want any more industrial zoning or development. We simply cannot sustain showing up at every meeting to repeat the same message.”
One of the developments the group is concerned about is the Vulcan Materials’ quarry expansion. The board of commissioners recently approved the expansion of an inactive quarry to over 300 acres for Vulcan Materials to begin blasting for rock.
Odom says one of the top concerns is the total lack of transparency and communication at the county level.
“They recently heard a room full of citizens voice opposition to the Vulcan Quarry at the last meeting and yet immediately voted to approve it, without even holding any discussion and without offering any reason,” she said. “People are outraged.”
They have created petitions for both the moratorium and quarry expansion and residents have shared them on Nextdoor and Facebook. Both petitions have over 100 signatures.
At the April 25 Jefferson City Council meeting, Odom and Ivester spoke about the quarry expansion’s impact on subdivisions like The Heritage at Jefferson and development concerns.
“The Vulcan Quarry is specifically a Jackson County issue, but because it borders the city of Jefferson, and because the county commissioners wouldn't return our phone calls or emails, we enlisted the help of our city council as well,” Odom said.
Noise and environmental pollution could directly impact about 400 households in close proximity to the quarry.
“[The households] will be directly impacted by the blasting, the impact on the infrastructure, the truck traffic [and] the noise,” Odom added. “We have some in our own neighborhood . . . who are retired veterans who have served our country and unfortunately have ended up suffering with PTSD and these explosions are life-altering for anyone who's suffering with that condition. There's also the concern for carcinogenic dust particles to be breathed in, especially for those who are already suffering with lung issues such as COPD, emphysema, etc.”
Odom and Ivester also discussed the moratorium’s relevance to Jefferson, including developments’ impact on traffic and public safety.
Construction on Hog Mountain Rd. has created a narrow road width and many tractor-trailers and semi-trucks have also attempted to turn around in the limited space.
“It has certainly put us in situations where we are swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid running up on a curb,” Ivester said. “It's really very much a deathtrap when we're going down that road. It is our main access to I-85 to get onto the highway to work, or to do personal business.”
They said they want growth and development, just not the way it’s been.
“We just want to see [development and growth] handled in the best way, in a responsible way, that enriches our community and doesn't rob it of resources before our infrastructure and our utilities are able to keep up with it, and that doesn't affect the daily lives of so many of the citizens in such a negative way,” Odom said.
“We certainly moved here, knowing that [growth] was coming,” Ivester added. “There's a lot of wonderful people moving to the area that I think we can all work together. We can certainly come up with a solution that benefits everybody; benefits residents, benefits business and ultimately the wonderful environment that Jefferson really has that we all came here for.”
They said they hope the city and county can move in a direction of more responsible planning.
“I love this community; I love our city and our county,” Odom said. “I don't want to see the trajectory that we're on right now continuing with the industrial expansion that just seems, if I could say, irresponsible and out of control.”
It's really up to us at this point,” Ivester added. “I think that this is our time to really decide what the future of Jefferson looks like.”