The Commerce Planning Commission ran head-on into the classic planning dilemma at its Monday, Oct. 28, meeting.
It had a request for an annexation of property and rezoning of land on what is known as Bouchard Farms. It was for industrial zoning, the “best use” of the land, according to James Bouchard.
It also had families objecting to the request, saying the adjacent land is zoned residential and should stay that way. No one suggested the land would not be zoned residential. The landowners said the industrial zoning would damage their “quality of life.”
Zoning, theoretically, establishes land uses in various areas and protects quality of life.
In this instance, the commission has one family, in particular, who said definitively that it expects to stay on the land, that it will remain agricultural and residential or the quality of life will be irreparably harmed. Family members made the point that the land has been in the family since 1883.
Any decision will make some property owners most unhappy.
Stephen Lovett, with the Norton Commercial Group, represents Bouchard, and may have made the most accurate statement of the evening.
It was twofold. First, the property has long been planned for industrial use and second, Interstate 85 that runs through that section of Jackson County is going to grow and develop.
That development likely will not be residential. On all sides, the property along the interstate is being developed as commercial or industrial.
The family is likely correct that its quality of life will be changed – maybe damaged – over the coming years.
Other families also objected, but those families have owned property in the area much shorter periods of time than the one family. They easily could have predicted the development of the area before they bought their land.
Bouchard had another piece of property rezoned industrial, and annexed into the city, a few months ago. That property is mostly adjacent to I-85. The decision on that land drew no objections.
The land now under consideration is closer to the families’ property who objected. In some areas, the property lines touch.
Some of those objecting pointed out that other areas around them are already zoned for industrial use. They reinforce Lovett’s point above.
If a proposed 600-acre development on the Maysville side of I-85 becomes a reality and if the SK Battery side eventually takes the 283 acres the county provided, those two developments would make most of the area industrial.
The property now zoned residential could remain that way for years. If it were to stay residential, it is likely to become an “island” in a small sea of land that is zoned industrial.
The planning commission did what any government body that finds itself between a rock and a hard place might do – it put off a decision. The legal term is “tabled.” It drags out the problem, but it also got the planning commission out of that specific mess.
The mess remains. It is likely to be one of a number of contentious decisions over the next few years. I see similar issues arising around the Martin Bridge Road exit on I-85 in Banks County.
A number of similar problems have come up in the Braselton-Hoschton area as development moves northeast from Atlanta.
Commerce leaders have patted themselves on the back for maintaining residential and industrial areas separately, thus avoiding some of the growth issues that have popped up in other areas of Jackson County.
This issue is squarely in that area. One “fix” can be conditions on any industrial project that keeps truck traffic off Woods Bridge and Lords Mill roads. Commerce city manager James Wascher said developers would not spend the money necessary to make those roads acceptable for heavy traffic, but the city could make that an explicit condition.
That would help. It would not resolve all the questions.
Those opposing the rezoning said repeatedly they are not opposed to growth. But this growth they do oppose.
Growth is seldom painless.