With a law firm eager to share information and a collection of concerned landowners protesting a proposed industrial park in southern Bulloch County, the Bulloch County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting slated for Thursday at 6 p.m. promises to be once again standing room only.
Dan Bradley Jr., owner of GA I-16 Bulloch LLC, seeks to have two parcels totaling 4,682 acres rezoned from Agricultural and Residential (AG-5) to Light Industrial (LI) so that he can build an industrial park there. He will be represented Thursday, his second time approaching the county to seek rezoning, by Wes Taulbee with Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes, Marsh and Hodgin LLC, a Statesboro law firm.
Bradley's first attempt to secure rezoning for the property in July was met with a unanimous denial by the planning and zoning board, and the request never reached the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners for consideration, as Bradley withdrew it before their next meeting.
However, he reapplied a few weeks later, and Taulbee hopes to be able to share with concerned citizens and county officials on Thursday information and details that may help allay some of the passionate concerns citizens have expressed, he said Tuesday.
During the first rezoning hearing, several spoke out against the proposal for an industrial park.
Local attorney Matt Hube, representing several residents who live near Bradley's property, said during the first meeting that Bradley "has a vested interest" and that the project would "benefit him more than Bulloch County."
Dr. Ruth Green also questioned Bradley's motives and asked about a plywood business owned by Bradley's father, Dan Bradley Sr.
Under Green's questioning, Bradley said the property in question was timbered two years ago, and the timber has been sold. He said that there are no pending projects planned for the proposed industrial park at this time.
He also told the crowd that the proposed project would involve no landfill, no recycling center and no scrap yard.
"This is to set up Bulloch County for you guys to get in the game to win projects like Volvo" and other large industries, he said during that meeting.
"I chose to live in rural Bulloch County," said Gregory Futch, a resident of the area near the proposed site. "I don't want to live in developed areas; I don't want to live in downtown Atlanta."
Clarice Jones, another longtime resident, said, "I have strong feelings about this," adding that her family planted pine trees, are "good stewards of the land" and are "now just starting to see fox squirrels and quail in their natural habitat."
Property owner Charlie Martin said: "We have officials - scientists - who say this is not a good idea. We want the land to be healthy for our children and grandchildren."
Taulbee said on Tuesday that many residents misunderstand the purpose of the request, which must be filed in order for industries to even consider building on the property. If an industry is interested in locating there, it still must meet Bulloch County approval, as well as state and federal mandates, he said.
He hopes residents will hear out his proposal Thursday before deciding whether it would be an asset for the county.
The information that has been distributed by opponents - arguably the most vocal, a group with a Facebook page called "Stop the 4,682 acre Bulloch Bay Industrial Park Conversion of Ag Land," represented by Heather Holcombe - is mostly a Development of Regional Impact report, or DRI, that portrays the worst-case scenario, he said.
But the rezone request Bradley seeks is "not tied to a specific industry," Taulbee said. "There has been no industry that has targeted or expressed interest" in the property at this point.
Bulloch County has filled up one industrial park and has limited room in a new one recently created on Interstate 16 and Highway 301 South, he said, adding, "that leaves us down to 200 acres."
A larger park would attract even more business to Bulloch County, and there would be room to grow if and when the Highway 301 South and Interstate 16 park is filled, he said.
However, there is a large number of Bulloch County residents who do not agree.
The "Save Bulloch Bay" group has advertised the sale of T-shirts and decals to gather support and increase awareness of the issue. Several have posted comments against the proposal on the group's Facebook page.
"The long-term environmental harm will have more of an effect on people's health and wallets," wrote Jason Boyette. "Another is that the wildlife will be displaced, and potential farmland, trees, vegetation is important to the environment. I support the farmland because farmers are becoming scarce in this country, and we need them to help keep food prices low, and they're part of the backbone of this country."
In another post, Holcombe wrote: "So sad because we bought two tracts of land with the intentions of deeding one to our daughter so she would have a place to raise her family and live in the country! We didn't choose this community to co-exist with industry. I'm sorry! But the truth is the truth!"
Colt White agreed: "We moved from Bryan County cause it was getting too crowded. We chose this area cause it was mostly wooded and peaceful. If this goes through, you can forget the woods and peace."
The group alleges one-third of the site, located in the "southern end of the county, between I-16 and Bryan County," is wetland.
"The landowner's attorneys and PR firm insist there are no concrete plans to build in the near future," Holcombe wrote. "However, their application for rezoning indicates the first phase of the project will be complete in 2020, and the 'overall phase' to be complete in 2036."
Taulbee said residents will be able to ask questions about the proposal, and many answers may be found on their website, www.advancebulloch.com
"We think (Bradley's proposed industrial park) would enhance the existing ... (industrial) park, not compete," he said.
The county has been successful in attracting industries, and a larger park would be an asset, he said, adding that any impact would be in the years to come.
"Nothing would immediately change at all."
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.