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Council OKs new subdivision; planning ordinances to be overhauled
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    Work trucks lined the city hall parking lot Tuesday as the Statesboro City Council considered a motion to approve the preliminary plat for a new major subdivision inside the city limits.
    The Islands subdivision, slated for the east side of Lanier Drive just south of the bypass, will have 70 parcels with 55 duplexes, 13 single-family units and associated common area facilities. If all goes well, 24 duplexes and the entire infrastructure will be completed by the end of July during the first phase of the project.
    Of concern to many in the meeting’s audience, there was an issue of whether or not the project could get started immediately. However, according to subdivision development guidelines, an infrastructure agreement and a letter of credit needs to be in place before building permits can be issued.
    The agreement assures the city and its residents that quality infrastructure is being installed within the city limits. The letter of credit provides a financial guarantee for the project and insures that a developer can’t just walk away from the project, leaving incomplete infrastructure and an eyesore for the city.
    Councilmen Travis Chance and Will Britt criticized non-specific members of the development team for not following the proper procedures for subdivision development.
    “The course of action that should have been taken, which is spelled out in our ordinances, was not being followed and we were accused of being unreasonable,” Britt said. “However, it wasn’t even at a point yet of…moving forward on the project. We had asked for something and we had not received it.”
    Britt said he and other councilmen received numerous calls from contractors urging the council to move forward with the project.  The council voted 4-0 to approve the preliminary plat, despite the fact the letter of credit and infrastructure agreements were not in place. However,  in this instance, city staff were given the authority to make sure documents were in place before permits were issued, without having to go back before council.
    At the heart of the issue was the desire of the developer to “fast track” the approval process in order to meet construction deadlines, which would ensure that the buildings were available for occupation before Georgia Southern’s fall semester. Project representatives said they are only looking to speed the process up for the benefit of the community, not to circumvent city ordinances and guidelines.
    Joey Maxwell, from Maxwell-Reddick and Associates engineering firm heading up the project for property owner Bill Nguyen, said he was simply working with the staff to expedite the process so that the project wouldn’t be further delayed.
    “We have never asked (the city) to do anything without a permit or without a letter of credit or proper documentation. We’ve asked that the review process be expedited as we sent these (documents) in,” Maxwell said.
    According to Maxwell, if the project timeline is such that the project cannot be completed before GSU’s fall semester starts, the entire project may delayed by a year. That would have significant economic implications for both the owner as well as Statesboro’s entire construction community.
    Planning Director Christian Lentz said he realizes that there is a lack of work in the construction community, but it’s the city staff’s responsibility to ensure Statesboro is left with a development that functions properly.
    “If a company’s financial viability is indeed that tenuous it’s all the more reason why we need to go by the book on this so we don’t put ourselves in this situation where the project is just abandoned and there is no way to complete it,” Lentz said. “More now than ever we need to make sure we’ve accounted for the funding it’s going to take to make sure the streets and infrastructure are put in place.”
    Maxwell said part of the issue is the turnover of staff at the city. While not blaming the current staff and agreeing that regulations are in place, he said changes have been made to the development process over the years that were not reflected by changes in the ordinances.
    “I understand (the city’s) point of view,” Maxwell said. “Over the past eight years, as they created subdivisions inside Statesboro, (staff) found irregularities in the ordinances, so they had to work out ways to speed the projects up and ways to make things work within the ordinances. Unfortunately, they never actually changed the ordinance to reflect those (changes).”
    Britt also realizes that this is a problem.
    “I definitely think that is an issue and that is an issue that Christian has brought to council. He’s going to look at cleaning this up,” Britt said. “Since I’ve been elected to council, we’ve had four planners and three engineers, and I believe some of the problems we’ve had is inconsistent enforcement and inconsistent step-by-step analysis (of the process).”
    Lentz is planning to rewrite many of the ordinances that govern zoning, planning, and development by creating a unified land development code. This code would not only eliminate some of consistencies in the ordinances, some of which date back to the mid-70s, but would centralize planning and development guidelines while outlining specific step in the development process.
    Parties interested in submitting a bid to create the unified development code document can visit the city’s Web site,, to find details.

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