Bulloch County officials are currently seeking more than $12 million from “outside” sources towards an estimated $22.6 million in infrastructure spending for supplying water and sewer service to future homes in southeastern Bulloch as well as the announced Hyundai electric vehicle factory in northern Bryan County.
Much of the remaining “local” funding would be from federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money already appropriated.
A steering committee recruited to help guide the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners and county staff through zoning law revisions and out of the current 180-day moratorium on residential subdivisions for the southeastern part of the county held its first meeting Monday morning. A list of funding sources and amounts was included in a PowerPoint presentation, and County Manager Tom Couch shared details of initial planning to provide county-maintained water and sewer services in a “wet utilities” district. These services are meant to encourage the clustering of housing in a few neighborhoods or corridors, as an alternative to sprawl that would replace more farmland.
“This growth, this initial surge of growth, is going to have to be at the same pace that the Hyundai facility is going up,” Couch told the committee. “Our infrastructure, initial infrastructure, has to be put in at the same time, you know, we’ve got to have our plans and our ordinances in place, and to steal a phrase from the state, ‘speed to market.’”
That phrase, he noted, has been used by the Georgia Department of Economic Development in regard the state’s drive to get the Hyundai plant up and running.
Construction is slated to begin in late 2022 or early 2023 on the manufacturing complex at the 2,284-acre Mega Site in the Black Creek area of northern Bryan County, a little over five miles from the Bulloch County line. The complex, announced to include both a vehicle assembly plant and a battery factory, is projected to employ about 8,100 people. Hyundai Motor Group originally predicted that it will be in operation in January 2025.
Couch cited projections that the mega-plant will bring Bulloch County about 5,000 additional residents by 2030 above the “normal growth,” expected from census trends and that this will create demand for 2,000 more housing units in southeastern part of the county. Local real estate agents had reported a record surge in local housing prices beginning last year. The county’s planning and development staff, appointed planning and zoning board and elected county commissioners were receiving an increasing number of applications for site-specific zoning changes to allow residential subdivisions to be built on previously AG-5 agricultural-zoned land before commissioners voted Aug. 16 to impose the moratorium.
It applies only to a mapped area, identified as Southeast Bulloch County, extending south from Statesboro and Burkhalter Road to the Bryan County Line.
The moratorium halts processing of requests submitted after Aug. 16 to rezone tracts R-40, R-25 and R-15 single-family residential, R-3 multi-family residential, R-2 two-family residential, PUD-1 planned unit development or MHP, manufactured home park. It will end at the close of business on Feb. 10, 2023, unless extended by the commissioners.
County officials have a land use consultant, Rob Hosack, the former Cobb County manager who know has a firm called BH3, looking at Bulloch County’s zoning regulations and the affected area of the county. Bulloch’s government has also had an engineering firm, Hofstadter and Associates, working on preliminary plans and cost estimates for the county’s first foray into water and sewer services.
Four big wells
Four wells are proposed to be drilled in southern Bulloch County to supply 1.5 million gallons of water per day to the Hyundai plant. Under an “agreement in principle,” two of the four wells will become property of Bryan County while the other two will be Bulloch County’s, Couch said.
But the reason all four will be in Bulloch is that Bryan County is in a state Environmental Protection Division “yellow zone” for limited groundwater withdrawals because of past coastal saltwater intrusion into the aquifer. Bulloch is in the “green zone.”
Couch proposes supplying water to some future residential and commercial customers by installing water mains in specific areas of the Southeast Bulloch section. These may be designated as “suburban neighborhoods” or “suburban corridors” in the county’s future development map.
Water system areas
A concept map included in Monday’s slides suggested a linear water system extending along a segment of Old Highway 46, which is now a county-maintained road, and a looped water system in the area of U.S. Highway 80 and Georgia Route 119.
Meanwhile, Bryan County officials are planning to build an 8-million-gallon wastewater treatment plant to serve the Hyundai plant and surrounding area and have pledged 250,000 to 500,000 gallons per day of sewage capacity to Bulloch County.
That would be a start toward providing sewerage service to some Southeast Bulloch neighborhoods, but the county could also explore buying capacity from the city of Statesboro for expansion of its service, Couch suggested.
He said the county is not eager to build its own wastewater treatment plant, projected by engineers to cost about $12 million for just 500,000 gallons-a-day capacity.
“If we can push development into this utility district – or encourage development into it – we estimate that by 2030, if not sooner, we should have 1,960 water customers and a little under 1,500 sewer customers, if we can push the sewer out fast enough,” Couch said.
For this “Phase I” water and sewer infrastructure, the engineers have projected costs and the county staff has listed proposed funding sources for $22.56 million. The county has $7.83 million from ARPA funds earmarked for the water system.
On Friday, Bulloch County applied to the state for $9.8 million in “fiscal recovery funds,” also originally ARPA money appropriated to Georgia. Through Georgia’s U.S. senators, the county sought “congressionally directed spending” for the sewer system, and $3.01 million has made it as far as Appropriations Committee approval toward fiscal year 2023, Couch said. The funding list also includes $1.9 million expected from Bryan County in a “host fee” to be paid over time.
A further story will identify the steering committee members, among them two farmers and the county school superintendent and development authority CEO, as well as three commissioners and two zoning board members.
Because the committee’s work is expected to lead to changes in the county’s comprehensive plan, a preliminary “comprehensive plan public hearing,” is slated to be held 5 p.m. next Monday, Sept. 19, in the Board of Commissioners chambers at the county annex.