For the second time, the Bulloch County Planning and Zoning Commission denied a rezoning request to change a 4,682-acre tract from Agricultural and Residential (AG-5) to Light Industrial (LI).
Citing the lack of sufficient information, board members unanimously voted to recommend that the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners deny the request by Dan Bradley Jr., owner of GA I-16 Bulloch LLC, to obtain the rezone in order to build an industrial park to attract light industries that need larger tracts than the acreage provided by current Bulloch County industrial parks.
Local attorney Wes Taulbee, of Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes, Marsh & Hodgins LLC, spoke to a crowd of opposing residents that spilled out into the hallway, telling them that industries will not consider locating in areas that are not already zoned for industry.
Bradley was not present, on Taulbee's advice, as he has had "personal attacks" on social media regarding is desire to build an industrial park at the location called Bulloch Bay, Taulbee said.
Taulbee repeatedly stated that there were no definite plans for the parcel at this time, that nothing would be constructed that would damage or negatively affect the environment and that any industry that did approach with interest in locating there would have to adhere to county, state and federal mandates.
However, his comments appeared to do little to ease the minds of a roomful of people who said they want the area to remain agricultural, rural and unspoiled.
Taulbee pointed out that phases 1 and 2 of the Gateway Industrial Park, as well as the new South Gateway Industrial Park, are limited in space. The original park has just a few small parcels left, and the new one has just over 200 undeveloped acres remaining. Larger industries need more space, Taulbee said, but when he mentioned other counties that offer such acreage, voices from the hallway yelled, "Let them go there!"
Taulbee touted the advantages of having a larger industrial park in the county, but residents were steadfast in their opposition.
Local attorney Matt Hube, representing numerous residents of the Bulloch Bay area, pointed out that a flyer distributed by Taulbee's firm states, "No, the owner is not building an industrial park." But the point of the rezoning is to allow for an industrial park, he said, and there is a "great deal of distrust for the landowner" due to conflicting statements.
Although Bradley was referred to several times as the landowner, Taulbee said that the actual owner is GA I-16 Bulloch LLC. He said he would not disclose the names of the owners, even if he knew who they were. He also reiterated that if the land is rezoned, it could be 30 years or more before any action is taken.
Hube continued to express distrust.
"We don't know what is going to happen, when it's going to happen or how it's gonna be," he said.
The parcel is half the size of Statesboro and more than one-third wetland, he told the crowd. He shared a list of concerns including water issues, traffic problems, stress on the school system and law enforcement, as well as environmental, wildlife and pollution concerns.
The point is, no one can give answers as to what would happen to the property after rezoning, he said.
"There are just too many unknowns here," Hube said.
Resident Pete Buresh said that he works for Gulfstream and lives in the Bulloch Bay area. He invited people to visit Pooler to see how "light industry" affected the area and said he chooses to live in the Bulloch Bay area because of the peaceful, rural atmosphere.
Theresa Hackle spoke in opposition of disrupting what she described as an idyllic lifestyle and said that she had heard rumors that there was a possibility that the parcel would be used as a landfill.
Ron Starling, another resident, wanted to know why the issue was being revisited, as the board recommended commissioners deny the request in July. Planning and zoning Chairwoman Jeanne Marsh explained to the crowd, as many had asked the same question, that Bradley had asked the board for a deferral during the first request, as he needed to provide more information. When the board denied his request for a deferral and voted, he pulled the request and resubmitted it a few days later so he could offer more information on his plans.
Taulbee was allowed a rebuttal after citizens spoke in opposition. However, several said that no new information had been given and that they still had no answers to their questions.
Board member Shubert Lane moved to recommend denial for the rezoning request because of the lack of information provided. After a second by board member Thomas Moore, the vote was unanimous to recommend denial.
The matter will appear before the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners for a vote during its Oct. 4 meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Bulloch County Annex.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.