By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Commission enacts rezoning moratorium for SE Bulloch to plan for controlled growth
New county water and sewer systems could be used to focus development in direction of Hyundai plant

With Hyundai Motor Group’s plans for an 8,100-employee factory just across the county line accelerating demand for housing in the region, the Bulloch County commissioners unanimously approved a 180-day moratorium Tuesday on site-specific rezoning for new subdivisions in the southeastern part of the county.

County staff members, who intend to spend those six months revising the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning rules, also propose using county-operated water and sewer systems as a lure to concentrate some of the residential growth. Bulloch County was already expected to assist in providing a water supply to the huge electric vehicle and battery manufacturing plant planned for the 2,284-acre Mega Site in the Black Creek area of northern Bryan County, since the state purchased the site in partnership with the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, or JDA, of which Chatham, Bryan, Bulloch and Effingham counties are members.

Meanwhile, Bryan County is expected to build a wastewater treatment system serving the plant. The Bulloch County government operates no “wet” utilities at this point. But water and sewer service to potential residential areas in the southeastern-most portion of Bulloch would be provided by expanding on the two counties’ infrastructure plans for serving the manufacturing plant itself, according to County Manager Tom Couch.

“As part of this bigger scheme, we are actually trying to create a model, and with our advent into the water and sewer utility business that we are planning, we want to try to concentrate density where infrastructure is available,” Couch said during Tuesday’s meeting. “That is going to be the whole larger idea behind this.”

‘Character areas’

The availability of water and sewer would be linked to “character areas” targeted for denser development, he added.

Details of the water and sewer utility plan were not part of the discussion Tuesday. But “water-sewer” was the fifth of five categories for planning in a “preliminary moratorium task” chart Couch gave the commissioners to show how the county staff intends to use the 180 days.

The first three categories are the county’s comprehensive plan, its zoning ordinances and its subdivision ordinance, each proposed for substantial revision with help from consultants and a steering committee or “stakeholder group.”

“What we hope to achieve is a Comprehensive Plan amendment, particularly to our Future Development Map, where we may create a new character area or two that is likely to be coterminous with what we define as our final water and sewer utility district,” Couch said.

A fourth heading on the moratorium task schedule, “stormwater,” is expected, like the “water-sewer” planning, to require new rules. The handling of stormwater, or in other words drainage, is not something the county government set standards for before, or at least not on a large scale in regard to private development.

At this point, Couch does not expect Bulloch County’s regulation of stormwater to go so far as to create a “stormwater utility,” or fee-supported maintenance program like the city of Statesboro has, he said.


Fewer conditions

The county officials and stakeholder committee will also look at embedding certain requirements, which the planning and development staff currently make conditions of approval for site-specific requests, into the general wording of the zoning and subdivision ordinances, Couch said.

“We typically have anywhere from 30 to almost 50 zoning conditions, where I think you all would agree that over the years that probably 80 percent of those conditions are routinely and without fail approved in every zoning application or even conditional use application,” he told the commissioners.

The moratorium, as enacted, applies only to “Southeast Bulloch County” as defined by a map attached to the resolution. This area extends south from Statesboro and Burkhalter Road to the Bryan County Line. It surrounds Brooklet, but Brooklet has its own city zoning and so is not directly affected.

In the moratorium area, the county government has halted consideration of new requests for rezoning to seven zoning classifications, effective immediately, for 180 days, ending at the close of business on Feb. 10, 2023.

A further passage reserves the commissioners the right to extend the moratorium up to 180 additional days. Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson said he does not want or expect that long a hold on rezoning but that the commissioners could extend it by a month or two past the first 180 days if needed.

The stakeholder committee will include some commissioners and representatives of the agricultural community, school system and other sectors, Thompson said. Identifying and assembling the committee members, holding a public hearing and having a consultant begin a land-use analysis are slated as tasks for August and September.

The revised plan and zoning ordinance are slated for final revisions in January and February, when public  hearings and  a final adoption schedule would  be set.

The zoning classifications currently barred from use for rezoning in the Southeast Bulloch area are R-40, R-25 and R-15 single-family residential, R-3 multi-family residential, R-2 two-family residential, PUD-1 planned residential development and MHP, manufactured home park. R-40 requires a 40,000-square-foot lot, or 0.9 acres; R-25 at least 25,000 square feet; and R-15 at least 15,000 square feet, or one-third acre.

The moratorium doesn’t affect R-80, a single-family residential classification defined in the zoning ordinance as requiring a minimum 80,000-square-foot lot, which is 1.8 acres.

Home lots measuring five acres or larger, or down to one acre if deeded to a family member, are also allowed in AG-5 zoning, which is officially “agricultural and residential,” without a zoning change. This type of property division and home construction also is not restricted by the moratorium.

In fact, the resolution states: “This moratorium shall have no effect upon applications for or approvals of building permits, sketch plans, development plans, conceptual site plans, etc. … when such applications or approvals are based on the existing zoning.”

“We don’t have all the answers. I don’t know if we have any of the answers,” Thompson said. “But in order to decrease our mistakes in our decision making, we feel like this is the best route to take.”

The commissioners approved the moratorium 5-0, on a motion from Walter Gibson, seconded by Anthony Simmons, with Curt Deal absent.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter