Construction of an extended-stay motel in Hinesville inched forward Thursday despite one city councilmember’s objection that a request smacked of speculative zoning.
“I don’t have a problem with the rezoning itself,” Councilman Charles Frasier said at a council meeting, “but this seems like speculative zoning.”
The rezoning request, which passed, 4-1, over Frasier’s no vote, came from the Hinesville Housing Authority. It asked that a little more than an acre along Fort Stewart Railroad near the authority’s Welborn Homes on Olive Street be changed from single-family residential to a commercial zone.
Speculative zoning, in general, is when a government is seen to be helping an owner sell property by changing its zoning.
“We’ve turned down similar requests in the past,” Frasier said, adding later that he feared the current request would set a precedent.
Paul Johnson, chairman of the authority, said the sale would help the group to provide more housing for low-income residents. He denied the rezoning would be speculative.
“We don’t consider it speculative zoning because it’s just sitting there,” he said, adding that the authority can’t use it because of federal safety rules for housing and the land’s proximity to the railroad.
Taylor Haley, an attorney from Brunswick who is counsel to the authority, agreed. She said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rules cover how housing authorities dispose of surplus property. The rezoning is called for in the rules, she said.
“We’re following their protocol,” she said.
The land is bounded on the east by property owned by the Michael A. Bryant Trust. One of its trustees, former Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe, said he also didn’t consider the rezoning speculative because the property has no street access and likely will be attractive only to adjoining property owners. He said he knew at least the Bryant trust would bid on it when the authority puts the property out for bids.
He said the trust is working with a group that wants to build the extended-stay motel. The trust and group wants the land to enhance its property and control activity in the area.
A sign on the property in the past has said a Candlewood Suites is to be built there. The sign has been damaged in recent weeks, however, and is not visible from the street.
While organized by the city in 1959, the Hinesville Housing Authority is considered an independent organization with its own commission and budget.