A property owner’s request to rezone a 22-acre site near the southeastern corner of Bulloch County from “AG” agricultural to “HI” heavy industrial for a Hyundai Motor Group supplier is scheduled to go to the county Board of Commissioners for a decision during their June 6 regular public meeting.
Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting will not be held in the county’s North Main Annex, where renovations are still being completed, or its recent substitute venue, the Honey Bowen Building. Instead, the commissioners will meet in the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture – the building that houses UGA Extension Service and USDA offices – at 151 Langston Chapel Road.
The request to rezone the 21.94 acres at 8527 Georgia Highway 119 South to heavy industrial for an injection-molded plastic parts manufacturer was filed in the name of property owner Ronald DeLoach. It comes to the elected commissioners with a recommendation for approval with conditions by a 4-3 vote of the appointed Planning and Zoning Commission at its May 11 meeting, where some area residents voiced concerns.
So far unidentified, the proposed Hyundai supplier is apparently expected to create about 120 jobs, since a county summary states that the facility would have 40 employees per shift over three shifts.
To be clear, this project is not any of the Hyundai supplier projects announced by the state and the Development Authority of Bulloch County. Local lawyer Steve Rushing, who serves as the DABC’s attorney, also appeared as agent for DeLoach’s request during the Planning and Zoning Board meeting, but he and Development Authority CEO Benjy Thompson confirmed that the DABC is not involved with the project.
“The Development Authority is not involved, and Steve Rushing, who was the agent, said they’re not asking for any tax abatements or anything, so it would go on the tax rolls immediately,” county Planning and Development Director James Pope said after the May 11 planning board meeting.
The Highway 119 site, Pope noted, is one of the last parcels of land in Bulloch County in that direction. One side of it borders the Interstate 16 right of way. Beyond it on I-16 to the southeast is Bryan County, where the Hyundai Motor Group Meta Plant America site is within five miles.
A concept map shows the proposed injection molding building as having approximately 200,000 square feet of floor space. The building height is estimated to be 44 feet to allow for the injection molding equipment and internal cranes to lift molds, a summary states.
‘Light’ vs. height
Pope said the height of the building is the only reason for the site to be zoned HI, heavy industrial, instead of LI, light industrial.
But he and other county staff members who reviewed the rezoning request recommended that it be approved as heavy industrial subject to a number of conditions. The first of those staff conditions states, “The principal use(s) approved for this property shall be limited to light manufacturing.”
“The reason that they are asking for heavy industrial is because of the height limitation that light industrial provides,” Pope said in an interview. “As explained to me, they would need 45 to 50 feet in height, and the light industrial limit is 35 feet. But the process itself in the conditions we limited to light manufacturing.”
Key differences between heavy and light manufacturing are the kind of raw materials and processes used, he said. For example, the Aspen Aerogels plant under construction at Bruce Yawn Commerce Park will have tanks of different chemicals that feed into its manufacturing process, and so is categorized as heavy industry, he said.
“Light industrial, or light manufacturing, involves more of a stable product that gets turned into the end product, more palletized goods, things like that,” Pope said.
On his basis, the county staff in its recommendations views extrusion molding as a “light manufacturing” process.
A short road segment called Old Black Creek Road runs along the western end of the site from Highway 119. Another condition recommended by county staff members is for the property owner or developer to be responsible for improvements to this road, subject to approval by the county engineer.
County staff members also recommended requiring that any new utility lines at the site be placed underground.
Other conditions include requirements for a traffic impact study, a hydrology study and stormwater management plan and a fire safety plan.
If an on-site well and septic tank are installed, these will require County Health Department approval. But the staff review report notes: “Bulloch County anticipated future water and sewer system service to the parcel and general area. Temporary service measures may be required if construction is to be completed prior to water and sewer service to the parcel.”
The proposed development summary states that the plant could use 50,000 gallons of water per day, most of which would be discharged to the atmosphere through cooling towers.
The staff report describes the available fire service as coming from the Bay District Fire Department, 6.2 miles away, with an estimated 20-minute response time. “No additional resources are required,” the report states.
But the traffic impact section of the report states that the capacity and condition of roads to the proposed plant “is inadequate and improvements will need to be made.” The project summary gives an estimate that a maximum of 80 trucks will visit the site each day.
After the Planning and Zoning Board’s six regular voting members split 3-3 on whether to recommend the zoning change for approval with conditions, board Chair Jeanne Anne Marsh cast a tie-breaker vote in favor.
The staff review group observed that the current Bulloch County Joint Comprehensive Plan identifies this property as “appropriate for rural open space,” but then noted that the “Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee has submitted an application to change the character to Suburban Corridor.”
In fact, a revised Future Development Map for the whole county – the last piece of the regulatory updates developed by the steering committee and staff during a partial moratorium on owner-requested zoning changes – is also on the agenda for a Board of Commissioners decision during Tuesday’s meeting.
The moratorium, which only blocked requests to rezone for higher-density residential subdivisions in the southeastern part of the county, expired April 7. The commissioners had unanimously approved revised subdivision and zoning rules and an all-new Stormwater Control Ordinance on April 4.
The Planning and Zoning Board was not unanimous in its opinion of the Future Development Map amendment, but voted 5-1 May 11 to recommend approval. Board member Ryne Brannen voted “no.”
If the proposed map is approved, the existing “interstate gateway” character area at the Georgia Highway 67 interchange on Interstate 16 will be extended up to the Denmark community. A “suburban corridor” will be created along Highway 67 and Old Highway 46 and a small portion of U.S. Highway 80, and a “suburban neighborhood” added south of I-16 to Seed Tick Road and north to Mud Road.
Together, these constitute the region where county officials propose to install county-operated public water and sewer systems to focus development in a smaller area.
The map itself is not legally binding buts serves to guide the staff and planning board in recommendations.