Before a packed room Tuesday, Bulloch County commissioners voted to accept the withdrawal of a highly opposed zoning request.
Commissioners tabled the issue from a previous meeting, where L&S Acquisitions requested to change 11 acres of land on Josh Deal Road from R-25, which is zoned for single-family dwellings, to R-3, for multi-family apartments.
Last month, several residents of Josh Deal Road attended the Bulloch County commissioners’ meeting, many of whom spoke in opposition of the request. Tuesday, the crowd was back, prepared for more protests and armed with a heavily signed petition and paper fans with the logo “Neighborhood Strong.”
However, when it came time for commissioners to hear the zoning request, John Dotson with Maxwell and Reddick Engineers, representing L&S Acquisitions, asked to withdraw the request.
He did not give reasons for the withdrawal and did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday. A contact number for L&S Acquisitions, owned by Stephen Sauers and Lisa Hodges, was not immediately available.
The Bulloch County Planning and Zoning Board recommended commissioners deny the request.
But while no vote on the rezone request was needed, commissioners did have to vote on whether to accept the withdrawal because the request to remove the item had not been submitted in time to take it off the agenda.
When an agent withdraws a rezone request, he or she is able to bring it back to the board after a month. However, if a request is denied, it takes six months before the agent can bring it back, according to Bulloch County Attorney Jeff Akins.
After Liz Patton, a Josh Deal Road resident, questioned the length of time required to bring the issue back up, commissioners consulted with staff. Patton said she spoke for the opposing group in stating they did not want the matter to return next month, expressing frustration that the issue had been tabled already.
Commissioners then voted to accept the withdrawal of the rezone request, with the stipulation that it may not be readdressed for six months. The vote was unanimous.
Patton told the Statesboro Herald that residents disapproved of the rezone for fear it would diminish property values and reduce the family-oriented quality of life experienced in the neighborhoods along Josh Deal Road, which runs between Harville Road and Highway 67 south of Statesboro.
“We moved to Statesboro to be closer to family,” she said, adding that she graduated from Georgia Southern University 30 years ago and taught school in Statesboro. “After looking at the houses in the Josh Deal corridor, we chose a house in Bridgewater due to this area being zoned R-25, single family, and knowing all the adjoining properties were zoned R-25.”
Multi-family apartments are not conducive to the quiet, family atmosphere, she said.
Resident Sue Lawrence told the Statesboro Herald that she and her husband “decided to retire in Bulloch County as our children and grandchildren and extended family live here.
“We desired a family-strong neighborhood,” she said, adding that building multi-family dwellings would “tear apart” the neighborhood.
Other county business
Also during the meeting, two county employees were honored with the first-ever Charles D. Sikes Integrity Award, citing honesty, hard work and strong values.
Bulloch County sheriff’s Capt. Cheryl Hagins, who has worked under four sheriffs for over 50 years, and Marilyn Hilton, a long-time service technician, both were recognized.
Commissioners also finalized and approved an agreement between the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and Bulloch County Schools regarding school resource officer contracts, responsibilities and reporting.
Commissioners accepted a bid from Pope Construction for $4, 619,000 to build and renovate a structure to house the jail administrative offices and Bulloch County Public Works. The project does not include proposed jail pod additions. Five bids were received, and Pope was the lowest bid, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
During the public comments session, Keith Howard spoke to commissioners about the importance of teamwork.
Without mentioning the fact that he has announced a 2020 run for the Bulloch County sheriff’s seat, Howard referred to his concerns with the Bulloch County sheriff’s budget, overtime issue, and cessation of the partnership with the tri-agency Crime Suppression Team with Statesboro and Georgia Southern University police.
He suggested that better communication and cooperation between commissioners and the sheriff would benefit county residents.
“It only takes one to burn a bridge, but it takes a group to build it back,” he said. “Here is a vision — put the (CST) back together and get back on track. Talk to the judges, DA, federal and state agencies” for partnerships that are not in place at this time.
He said Bulloch County needs to be more aggressive against human and sex trafficking, gang activity and drugs.
“We’re going to have to figure it out as a group,” he said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.