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Windward South back on city agenda
Focus of concern about development along S&S Greenway
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In this 2012 file photo, people enjoy a stroll on the S&S Greenway bike trail. The zoning change that Windward South’s developers need to build 119 housing units on 19.2 acres beside the Greenway is back on Statesboro City Council’s agenda for 9 a.m. Tuesday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The zoning change that Windward South’s developers need to build 119 housing units on 19.2 acres beside the S&S Greenway is back on Statesboro City Council’s agenda for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

During two previous meetings the council heard well over a dozen people voice objections to the development because of its proximity to the Greenway, a walking, running and biking trail. However, the developers agreed to all conditions placed on the project by the city’s planning and development staff, and the Planning Commission voted 5-0 on Aug. 7 to recommend approval. The developers also made some further concessions after discussions with citizens critical of the project.

During the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, where the mayor and council conducted their second hearing on the proposed change, Councilman John Riggs made a motion to approve. But the motion died for a lack of a second. Since the non-vote was not a denial, the zoning request remains alive for a possible new motion without a further hearing.

“We just want to work with Statesboro and create living arrangements and the possibility also of some younger families and starter families in Statesboro to have and build assets in the community as well,” David Pearce, the applicant and one of the Windward South investors, said after the Sept. 18 discussion.

Currently the 19.2-acre property is zoned R-10 and R-8, for single-family residential lots covering 10,000 or 8,000 square feet. Pearce’s request is for a change to PUD, or Planned Unit Development, allowing construction of 41 buildings containing 119 units with room for 261 beds. The buildings would mostly be triplexes, or three-unit structures, with a few two-unit and four-unit buildings.

As the city planning staff required as one of its conditions for approval, the lots have been designated for fee-simple sale, meaning the buildings or individual apartments would be sold and not rented out by the developers. That, Pearce noted, is a distinction from the nearby Beacon Place complex, which already fronts the Greenway.

Windward South’s 19.2-acre space is part of a 54.12-acre tract, but the remainder is not proposed for development.

I just want to say again that we are not against any development on the Greenway. ... The question is how dense should it be and what provisions have we made to prepare for this development.
Robert Costomiris, S&S Greenway trail user

People who walk, run or ride bicycles on the Greenway expressed concerns about the trend in development near the trail during the Aug. 21 meeting, when the council first heard the request, and again Sept. 18. Beacon Place is already developed, and in May the council approved a zoning change that will allow another property owner to build a commercial fitness center, referred to as CrossFit Boro, on the other side of Windward South.

City planning officials have designated a single entrance point that would connect S&S Railroad Bed Road to both the fitness center and the housing development. The drive would cross the paved pedestrian and bike path.

Trail users speak

“I just want to say again that we are not against any development on the Greenway,” Robert Costomiris told City Council two weeks ago. “We understand, the people that are opposed to this that I have been talking to, understand that some development is going to happen. The question is how dense should it be and what provisions have we made to prepare for this development.”

First equating the 261 beds with as many cars  regularly crossing the trail, Costomiris also referred to the Windward South plan as having “lots of houses packed in like sardines” and asked that the developers stop and come back with a  less dense plan.

Carolyn Altman, director of the Botanic Garden at Georgia Southern University, had noted during the Aug. 21 meeting that she often walks on the Greenway for exercise. A number of trail users said its safety, as compared to a street or highway, is one of its attractions.

City Council tabled the zoning request at that first meeting, where City Manager Randy Wetmore asked the project’s critics to meet with the developers in an effort at compromise.

Altman and others concerned had met more than once with the developers and talked with city officials, and she acknowledged that Pearce made some concessions. But she still spoke in opposition at the latest meeting.

“Through all these conversations, this same theme kept coming up: ‘Wow! That’s a lot of traffic.’ …,” Altman said. “If you multiply that over perhaps future development, if each of those cars makes just three trips a day, that’s over a thousand intersections back and forth across the Greenway, and that’s a lot of opportunity for people to get hurt.”

She said she would like to live in a place much like the one Pearce is proposing but felt that the city was not ready yet, with no plan to deal with the traffic.


Rollins’ input

Mike Rollins, Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department director, said he wanted to provide information more than oppose or support the project. But he also expressed concern for the S&S Greenway, which he led in planning in 2008-09 and which the county and Recreation Department now have plans to extend to Brooklet.

“Long-term, my concern is if we continue to do multi-family development and-or commercial development down that roadway, we’re going to destroy not only the public asset that we have but we’re also going to create a situation where people won’t want to use it anymore,” Rollins said. “They want to use it because of the safety issue. We’ve got plenty of places in this community where we can do commercial development.”

He told the council that no traffic study had been done for the Greenway and parallel road because the area was then undeveloped.


Corridor guidelines

A document called the S&S Greenway Corridor Design Guidelines was drawn up for the Recreation Department in 2009. But the city has never adopted the guidelines, and the Windward South project, with conditions added by the city staff and concessions made by the developers, exceeds the guidelines’ protections in some aspects.

“On this development we really are meeting those guidelines and really exceeding what their guidelines were, and that includes a beefed-up landscape buffer, over double what the guidelines call for, and a landscape berm and limited access on the Greenway drive cuts,” city Planning and Development Director Frank Neal said in an interview.

The corridor guidelines would require a 15-foot-wide buffer, he said. Pearce started with a 30-foot wide buffer and agreed to add five more feet, for a 35-foot buffer, in the compromise effort. He also agreed to add an additional berm, or raised planted island, and there would be three of these, each 40 feet long, Neal said.

Additionally, the city staff included a requirement that the drive be marked with red brick-colored concrete where it crosses the Greenway. In another concession, the developers have agreed to install stop signs on the trail itself where the drive crosses.

Neal also said that about 90 single-family homes could be built on the same property without a zoning change.

City Councilman Derek Duke suggested the council might allow the project but then put a moratorium on further development along the trail until a traffic study is done and a “reliever road” planned.

“Most developments of this size do require a traffic impact study. …,” Duke said at the last meeting. “We may need one in this particular case, if not for this development to be restricted that this be the last development that we will consider along the Greenway until we develop an alternate route off of the Greenway.”

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