Hendley Properties’ plan to build five one-bedroom cottages as rentals behind an existing four-bedroom house the company is refurbishing on South College Street received the necessary variances from City Council this week, and drew no objections from neighbors. But the development raised some concerns about traffic.
For several years now, the firm led by Ray Hendley has been a leading developer of rental housing around Statesboro’s South Main Street corridor, a segment of U.S. Highway 301 increasingly known as the Blue Mile. The company’s restoration of older homes and creation of duplexes and single-bedroom apartment houses has drawn praise from city officials, as has its willingness to add features such as a fountain or provide easements for future sidewalks.
“Those one-bedrooms are aimed at bringing in professionals, professors, retirees and young couples,” said Bryan Davis, property manager for Hendley Properties. “That’s been our demographic for the one-bedroom units downtown.”
Hendley’s plans for 453 South College required a zoning change from R20 single-family residential to R4 “high-density residential district.” The firm also requested variances from a minimum-size dwelling rule and the minimum set-back for rear yards.
The city’s planning and development staff recommended approval of the zoning change and size variance, but denial of the setback variance. Then the Planning Commission, with four of its members present, but with one, who is a contractor on the project, abstaining, voted 3-0 on Nov. 2 to recommend that City Council approve the zoning change and both variances.
Talking to City Council Tuesday evening, Davis said he had talked with several South College Street neighbors, and had heard concerns about traffic.
“It seems like one of the biggest concerns is that people at the intersection right now are not following the traffic rules of the street,” Davis said. “They’re not obeying the speed limit signs and they’re not obeying the stop signs. The people that we’re bringing in should be on the more responsible end of rental housing because it’s not aimed at student properties.”
Two nearby residents of the 400 block of South College Street, Rick Curlin and Jason McCoy, spoke to the council.
“I’m not in opposition to his development,” Curlin said. “I think what he does is good; it’s aesthetically pleasing, and he maintains it well. What I’m concerned about is the traffic at the intersection of South College and West Kennedy.”
Drivers pass through the intersection, “some with a rolling, California stop,” and others “just running it” and others stopping appropriately, he said. What Curlin said really got his attention was a dump truck loaded with fill dirt – not for the Hendley project – rolling through without stopping “as if he was going down 301.” A school bus, he said, comes through each morning, and many drivers use South College as a thoroughfare to avoid 301 South.
When Curlin called Statesboro police about his concerns earlier this year, the department responded promptly, with a patrol car in the area on several occasions and officers pulling over dozens of drivers, he said.
McCoy echoes Curlin’s statement about not opposing the project.
“But our largest concern is the traffic congestion,” McCoy said. “After the development further down the street went in, we saw a significant increase in traffic.”
Both Curlin and McCoy used an estimate that the renovated four-bedroom house and five new cottages will add nine to 18 cars.
The city put up “stop ahead” signs after previous complaints. McCoy said the day the signs went up, he saw a police officer pull over a motorist who blew through two intersections with stop signs.
Mayor Jan Moore observed that the South College Street residents’ concerns were about added cars compounding an existing traffic problem, and not with the development itself.
“I would say your concerns are well-founded, and it sounds like what we need to be doing is figuring out what we’re going to do about it,” Moore said.
City workers have recently trimmed vegetation along the street to make sure the signs are clearly visible and are updating stop-bar striping, City Engineer Brad Deal reported.
McCoy suggested rumble strips or speed bumps, but acknowledged these wouldn’t be popular with residents.
Rumble strips are noisy, but the city is making increased use of “speed humps” as the preferred kind are called, said Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire. The city has a way of rating intersections to determine if these are warranted.
The Kennedy Street intersection has a three-way stop, which was probably installed because of limited sight distance, but three-way stops are often not respected by drivers on the larger street, such as South College, Cheshire said.
“I assure you that we’ll study it, and we’ll do what we can to try to improve that,” he said.
The cottages will measure just 677 square feet each, requiring a variance from the city’s minimum house size of 1,050 square feet. Councilman Phil Boyum asked if Statesboro is joining the “tiny house movement,” but he did not oppose the variance.
The council members present approved both the zoning change and the variances 4-0. The setback variance was requested so that utilities, such as water and sewer lines, can be installed in an area where they will not damage tree roots, Davis said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.