Spring Place residents prepare for second round of rezoning fight

Posted 11/20/16

At a meeting Tuesday night, more than 40 Spring Place community homeowners prepared to fight a proposal to rezone the rural area in the northeastern county from agricultural to commercial.

At the heart of their concern is a request by Greg Bowen, …

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Spring Place residents prepare for second round of rezoning fight

Posted

At a meeting Tuesday night, more than 40 Spring Place community homeowners prepared to fight a proposal to rezone the rural area in the northeastern county from agricultural to commercial.

At the heart of their concern is a request by Greg Bowen, a Bartow County Planning Commission member, to rezone 7.55 acres at the intersection of Ga. Highway 140 and Spring Place Road from A-1 (agricultural) to C-1 (commercial) in order to build a commercial development. Although the application isn’t clear about the type of development, an attached engineer’s drawing shows a 9,800-square-foot gas station and a 17,777-square-foot retail center.

The original hearing before the planning commission was scheduled for October, but was tabled and rescheduled for Dec. 5 after Bowen said he learned of the resident’s opposition.

“I was just wanting to get some type of retail store like Dollar General to come out that way,” Bowen said in an October interview. “The county zoning requirements call for you to give an engineer’s concept drawing, so we included all that other stuff — the retail space, the gas station — just to cover the requirements. I overkilled it just in case we ever wanted to do it.”

County zoning administrator Brandon Johnson confirmed the county’s requirement for a concept drawing saying it was added a few years ago because it was felt the zoning board needed more information on what they were voting on.

Bowen said in October that he wanted to talk to the residents.

“I wish they would hold another meeting and invite me so we could talk, he said. ”I will abandon the project completely if I feel like it’s going to affect the neighborhood negatively. Keep in mind — I don’t want to throw the county under the bus — but they make you give them a drawing of something. If the buildings on the drawing is what has them upset, we can compromise on that. I want to put a store like a Dollar General there. We can do away with all that other. It’s just a requirement by the county to include drawings of what it could be.”

And that, residents say, is throwing the county under the bus.

Indeed every person attending the meeting said they didn’t trust Bowen to keep his promises.

“There are two Dollar Generals each within 10 miles in two directions,” said Heather Akins, a Spring Place resident. “One in Adairsville and one in White. What do we need with another Dollar General?”

T.M. and Karen Morris moved from White to Spring Lake Road in 2004. They live a mile or so from the planned development and although they can’t see the plot in question, they worry about the light and noise pollution.

“Everyone who lives out here moved here to live in the country,” he said. “We didn’t move here to be close to a filling station. Our neighbors have horses and people drive wagons down Spring Place. The atmosphere, the openness, the agriculture, and the slower pace — we can see all the stars at night — that’s the beauty of living here. That development just isn’t needed here, we don’t need the light — we won’t be able to see the stars anymore — the noise or the traffic. I understand people wanting to make money, but why can’t he build it next to his business — Bowen is the owner of Bo’s Pallets in Adairsville — he has a huge pallet factory there.”The affected residents ask the same question; “why build it here?”

“This one of the last purely rural areas in Bartow County,” Akins explained. “It’s in the middle of nowhere. I just fail to see the need for a service station way out here, when in 10 minutes either way, you can buy most of your needs.”

Ronnie Holtman’s family —he and his wife, his two daughters and spouses and grandchildren — either live or are planning to live on the property within a mile of the proposed development.

“My concern is safety,” he said. “I’m concerned about the increased traffic on these narrow roads. It is already a dangerous intersection. And I am also concerned about our shallow water table. What happens to our water if there is a major fuel spill? We have family moving to this area and we would like to see it kept as safe as possible.”

Holtman also questioned the ethics of the proposal.

“The person (Bowen) applying sits on the planning board,” he said, “and that seems like a conflict of interest to me.”

Zoning administrator Johnson said Bowen’s request was not unusual.

“We have had quite a few instances where a zoning board member makes a zoning request,” he said. “Of course, they have to recuse themselves from voting.”

He also reiterated that county zoning requirements call for an engineer’s concept drawing, so it was included — the retail space, the gas station — just to cover the requirements and he overkilled it just in case he ever wanted to do it. And that is exactly the resident’s objections.

“I think he knows exactly what he wants to do with it,” Holtman said. “He recently purchased the property at auction with the current zoning and if it goes commercial, he stands to make quite a profit while our property values go down.”

Holtman said the residents feel it is the duty of the planning commission as well as the County Commissioner to look out for a community’s interest instead of an individual’s.

Bob and Sharon Fuente live on Spring Place Road, an idyllic country lane that twists and turns through hardwood forests and rolling hills. Bicyclists often outnumber motorists.

“I just don’t think we need any kind of commercial development in this area,” he said. “We moved out here to be away from that kind of thing. Spring Place is a little narrow two-lane road with a lot of bicycles and it can get hectic even then. We just don’t need this.”

Sharon Fuente noted that if it were something that fit the ambience, like a mercantile or a country store, it might be more palatable, but she just couldn’t see a commercial or industrial development.

Akins echoed Holtman’s feelings that the county needs to place the benefit of the residents over that of business.

“The commissioner has the final say,” she said. “Hopefully he will take we the people that elect him into consideration because I haven’t talked to anyone who supports this.”