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City Council considers zoning amendments
Way for possible shopping center on Lanier Dr. cleared
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In other business Wednesday

    Recently reelected councilmen pledged another four years of committed service to the City of Statesboro by reciting oaths of office.

    Councilmen Gary Lewis, Will Britt and Travis Chance stated their vows during a ceremony led by Bulloch County Probate Judge Lee Deloach.

    Members also voted to elect Britt as the council’s mayor pro tempore for another two-year term.

    Council’s next scheduled meeting will occur January 17.

    Statesboro City Council’s inaugural meeting of the new year was a tale of two zoning amendments.
    In the Wednesday morning session, representatives unanimously agreed to approve a zoning change that could result in the construction of a new shopping center near Paulson Stadium, while an amendment paving the way for apartments and duplexes along Highway 301 North fell flat in the face of community opposition.
    Councilmen took advantage of an opportunity to rid the city of aging, worn apartment buildings along Lanier Drive by approving a request to rezone land behind the La Quinta Inn, which includes the Stadium Place apartment complex, to be used for commercial purposes.
    A new owner of the property, according to
information presented to council, hopes to remove buildings on the 2.73-acre tract of land with intent of constructing a retail shopping center.
    “The units that are on the site are probably some of the oldest that have been built on Lanier Drive,” said Sam DiPolito, a realtor representing the property owner. “The owner’s thinking in purchasing the property was for potential commercial use in the future. His intention will be, at some point, to convert the entire piece of property for commercial use.”
    According to a preliminary project plan submitted to the city, the property would feature two 5,500-square-feet buildings for use as shopping centers, with additional space reserved for another development.
    “I think (the owner) buying this property is exactly what the council hoped for 10 to 15 years ago — that people would buy up the older apartments to do something with them so that we are not left in a poor situation,” said Councilman Will Britt. “In that regard, this could be ideal.”
    The other zoning request appearing on council’s agenda did not fare so well.
    A group of homeowners living in the Northbridge Subdivision, located on Highway 301 North, joined together to voice concerns regarding an attempt  to add apartment and duplex buildings to the property — Jennings Construction and Development requested rezoning of the property to allow for high and medium-density residential housing.
    Three homeowners spoke on behalf of the group and presented a petition, signed by seven of eight current owners within the subdivision, in opposition of the request.
    While property owners say rezoning could help them attract new tenants in a down economy, the homeowners say they want to maintain the single-family housing community they originally signed up for when purchasing homes.
    “There are a ton of concerns,” said one of the Northbridge residents. “We obviously don’t want to see anyone struggle, but we also don’t want to see what this could do to us, our property value and our way of living.”
    The group, who says they do not want additional “traffic, noise and problems” in their neighborhood, provided council with contracts given by the property owners that states no apartments or duplexes will be constructed in the subdivision — the contracts were signed when buying homes and are only subject to change after 25 years.
    In lieu of denying the request outright, council agreed to table the issue and allow property owners 30 days to find an amicable solution with homeowners.
    “Most people who have bought into this (subdivision) don’t want the changes,” said Councilman Travis Chance. “(Allowing the new residences) would be violating their trust and the integrity of what was supposed to go in the neighborhood. I sympathize with the subdivision owners, but I don’t see how I can vote to approve (rezoning).”
    Council will reevaluate the requested amendment during the first meeting in February, to see if the homeowners’ concerns remain.
    Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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