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Residents speak out against proposed industrial park
Zoning board denies proposal
Ga 16 Bulloch sketch 1

In spite of a request to defer a decision until next month, the Bulloch County Planning and Zoning Commission voted Thursday to deny approval of a proposed industrial park on Highway 67 near Interstate 16.

Property owner Dan Bradley Jr., represented by Thomas and Hutton Engineering Co., asked the board to wait until next month to vote, but after hearing several opposing views from residents in a standing-room-only crowd, board members took action and denied the request.

Bradley, owner of GA I-16 Bulloch LLC, seeks to have two parcels totaling 4,682 acres rezoned from Agricultural and Residential (AG-5) to Light Industrial (LI) so that he can build an industrial park there. The issue will be revisited on Aug. 2 during a Bulloch County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, when board members will consider the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to deny the request and hear from residents during a public hearing before voting on the matter.

Bradley asked for the vote deferral so he could have more time to pitch his ideas, he said.

“We are hopeful we can work with everyone over the next four weeks … to educate people about the project,” he said.

Ralph Forbes, with Thomas and Hutton Engineering, said Bradley approached him more than two ago with ideas about a new industrial park, citing port expansion and existing industry as reasons one was needed.

“A lot of projects are skipping Bulloch County due to lack of sites,” Forbes said.

Bulloch County already has begun construction of a separate industrial park just a few miles up the road off Interstate 16 at Highway 301 South.

Forbes said Bradley’s site, near Owens and Old Donaldson School roads off Highway 67, is ideal because it is in the “I-16 corridor, has access to rail, and the location makes it a viable industrial park.”

The project would be a boon, he said.

“We are trying to help Bulloch County develop a piece of land so the development authority can bring in larger projects,” Forbes said. “This is a 25 to 30 year plan, and it won’t happen next month or next year.”

Local attorney Matt Hube, who said he represented several residents of the area near Bradley’s property, spoke before the board Thursday and suggested that Bradley’s reasons for pursuing the project are more personal. He claimed that Bradley “has a vested interest” and that the project would “benefit him more than Bulloch County.”

Dr. Ruth Green also questioned Bradley’s motives and asked about a plywood business owned by Bradley’s father, Dan Bradley Sr.

Under Green’s questioning, Bradley said the property in question was timbered two years ago, and the timber has been sold. He said there are no pending projects planned for the proposed industrial park at this time.

Bradley also told the crowd that the proposed project would involve no landfill, no recycling center and no scrap yard.

“This is to set up Bulloch County for you guys to get in the game to win projects like Volvo” and other large industries, he said.

Bulloch County resident Gregory Futch said he is opposed to the idea.

“I chose to live in rural Bulloch County,” he said. “I don’t want to live in developed areas. I don’t want to live in downtown Atlanta.”

Clarice Jones, another longtime resident of the area near the proposed site, said: “I have strong feelings about this,” adding that her family planted pine trees, are “good stewards of the land” and are “now just starting to see fox squirrels and quail in their natural habitat.”

Hube said: “My clients are opposed for several reasons,” among them that they “don’t want to see changes in the nature and character of the land.”

He said the proposed industrial park could force residents to dig deeper wells if the demands on the aquifer are too heavy. He said there is concern about runoff into Black Creek, which feeds into the Ogeechee River. He also referred to currently empty industrial parks in the area.

“Do we need this?” he asked.

Green asked about solid waste estimates for the proposed park and spoke about the environmental impact as well as unexpected changes and problems that could occur after the rezoning, if it took place.

“Plant something and let it grow,” she told Bradley, suggesting he sell the property. “We are tired of people from somewhere else telling us what grandeur we could have,” adding that many similar proposals never pan out as promised.

Another to speak out against the proposed industrial park was Charlie Martin, who also lives near Bradley’s property. He told the commission to pay attention to the fact that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and the Coastal Regional Commission are opposed to the park. He also spoke of homes that would be disturbed by the widening of Highway 67 to accommodate the park and the subsequent increase in traffic, as well as the potential harm to endangered and threatened wildlife.

“We have officials — scientists — who say this is not a good idea,” he said. “We want the land to be healthy for our children and grandchildren.”

William Conner told the board that he would move from the county if the park was approved.

“I came from a polluted county to Bulloch County for the quality of life,” he said. “This is the start. You don’t know what is going to happen afterwards (if the rezone is approved.) You are taking a chance. It is a gamble. If (the property’s zoning status) changes, I’m leaving here.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny the request, but the ultimate decision is up to Bulloch County commissioners. After Thursday’s vote, the crowd applauded, and someone in the overflow crowd in the packed hallway called out, “Be there August 2.”

The issue will be revisited during a public hearing on that date at 5:30 p.m. in the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners’ chambers at the Bulloch County Annex.

 

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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