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Council denies gas station
Decision delights nearby residents; property owners sought zoning change
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Statesboro City Council denied rezoning applications that would have cleared the way for a Parker’s gas station and convenience store on Fair Road.

The Tuesday evening vote ended nearly a month of debate — from neighbors opposed to the project and property owners showing support.

A small group of property owners submitted the rezoning applications for three parcels of land located just off of Fair Road — on Herty Drive and Catherine Avenue. The land, if rezoned from its single-family residential (R-15) status, was to be combined and sold to Parker companies for use as a store.

But, in subsequent council meetings, vocal neighborhood associations — representing Pittman Park, Woodlawn Estates, Wendwood and Edgewood Acres — rallied to express their opposition, and argue that approval of the project would lead to more unwanted and unstoppable development in their community in the future.

By a 4-0 vote, council adopted a resolution that outlined their preference to keep the Fair Road neighborhoods intact and prevent encroaching commercial development. Councilman Travis Chance was absent.

 “We find that significant public interests are protected by maintaining the current R-15 (residential) zoning, and the owners of these parcels do not suffer a significant harm which is not substantially related to the public health, safety, morality and welfare,” the resolution read. “The current R-15 zoning continues to allow the owners the benefits of a robust student housing market while maintaining the character, integrity and property values of a well-established residential neighborhood. As such, the requests to amend the zoning map … are hereby DENIED.”

Councilman John Riggs, who represents members of the affected neighborhoods, made the motion to deny applications.

“I deny (the applications) for the reasons stated in the resolution,” Riggs said.

Justifications cited in the resolution include: protecting the integrity/character of the neighborhood, allowing zoning to remain consistent with surrounding tracts of land, and preventing significant, negative impact to living conditions in the area, traffic patterns and congestion.

“After careful consideration of the issues, I just decided to leave the zoning as it is. I did not believe the reasons presented to us to change zoning, were enough,” Councilman Will Britt said. “The applications (if approved) would have impacted the area and changed the way we feel that the area should stay. It should be residential all the way down that corridor.”

Said Councilman Phil Boyum: “I and other councilmen received dozens, if not hundreds, of calls from people expressing concern for putting a gas station at that particular location.”

Several of the neighborhoods’ residents sat through the nearly three-hour meeting to hear Council’s verdict.

“I am happy with the decision,” said Ray Fry, who lives in the area. “This is what we wanted. We need to maintain those inner-city neighborhoods.”

Attorney Bob Mikell, who was hired to represent the communities, said he feels council made the correct call.  “I am happy that the council stood up for the integrity of our local neighborhoods, and agreed to protect this very important area in Statesboro as a valuable residential area,” he said. “This is the outcome that the residents were hoping for.”

Property owners, who were hopeful the applications would be approved, so they could sell the land, could not be reached for comment. All left the council chambers as soon as the decision was rendered.

Attorneys representing the owners have argued that a vote against rezoning would place a hardship on property owners, who say they have been unable to sell their property as currently zoned. They also argue that a gas station and convenience store would be of greater benefit to the city as a whole.

Attorney Laura Marsh, who represented the would-be sellers in earlier meetings, told councilmen on two occasions that a vote against rezoning would prompt her clients to seek litigation.

Marsh was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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