The Liberty County Commission tackled a few development projects during the September meeting, coming to a decision on one project that has spurred debate within the community.
John Settles submitted a request on behalf of property owner Alija Hendry to rezone sections of a 79-acre parcel on Highway 17 and Freeman Grove.
Settles petitioned for 35 acres to be rezoned, 25 of which would be switched from an agricultural residential district (AR-1) to a one- and two-family residential district (R-2). The other 10 acres were up for rezoning to become a general commercial district (B-2).
“We’re not going with the maximum density and most aggressive,” Settles said. “We’re trying to be flexible.”
Despite the fact that he did
not request the maximum capacity for development, other residents near the land were concerned the zoning changes would mean too much development for the community.
“I seem to be the face of this opposition, but I stand united with several of the adjoining landowners, many of whom aren’t here today and weren’t here last time. But I have their blessing to present this argument. We do not approve of the project as it is zoned,” said Maxie Jones IV, a longtime Liberty County resident.
“All of the homes in our community have massive land structures. They all have at least one acre of land,” Jones said of his desire to maintain the current ratio of land to homes.
He also voiced concerns about safety issues that arise with population growth.
“We don’t have the excess crime or excess gang problems. We don’t have drive by shootings,” Jones said.
After listening to both sides of the argument, the commissioners decided to allow some rezoning, but not all. Instead of allowing for a B-2 commercial district, they decided to rezone the commercial section of land to a B-1 district, which limits the types of businesses that will be allowed in that area — no alcohol or gas sales.
The commissioners did leave a little wiggle room, passing a motion that allows the developer to appear before the commission if he wants to break with B-1 requirements.
As for the residential part of the land, the commissioners denied R-1 rezoning request, leaving the remaining acres as an AR-1 zone.
According to Alissa Davis, zoning specialist with the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, in maintaining the AR-1 status, the lots will have to comply with the 30,000 square foot requirements, which call for larger lots than the R-1 standards.