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Commissioners table industrial rezoning request
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The LCEMA meeting will be at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center.

Liberty County commissioners tabled a request to rezone more than 150 acres for warehouse use until they can get an agreement with future developers nailed down.

Commissioners voted unanimously to table the request from CMJ Investments on 154.5 acres of land between Islands Highway and Dorchester Village Road. The tract is part of a larger parcel, nearly 700 acres in all, and the request before commissioners asked to rezone the 154.5 acres from agricultural to industrial. Sketch plans call for a 1.3 million square foot building, another 800,000 square foot building, and a much smaller building on the property.

Commissioners, though, want to make more progress on a proposal that calls for developers of industrial sites to help offset the costs that come with those buildings, such as road improvements.

Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission members split 3-3 on the matter. LCPC staff recommended approval with special conditions, including a 100-foot vegetative buffer along Islands Highway and a 50-foot buffer from properties along Brigdon Road.

But east end residents, who vehemently opposed a rezoning approved earlier in the meeting, offered a second round of stern objection to this request.

“If this rezoning is approved, then it shows you are not listening to us. You do not care about us,” said Martha Dykes. “To the ones who approved it, it’s not your front yard. It’s not your back yard.”

Dykes asked that the request be tabled until the current comprehensive plan has been completed.

“Don’t continue destroying the peaceful tranquility of the east coast of Liberty County by allowing this area to be overrun by tractor-trailers and noise,” she said.

Nancy Maier also said another industrial zoning to make way for warehouses will be a “domino effect.”

“Please don’t tell me it won’t. Because it will,” she said.

Maier also worried that more building will drain the aquifer.

Marcie Hamilton also said the rezoning does not fit with the county’s comp plan.

“We seem to be OK with putting warehouses in front of residents’ homes on Dorchester Village Road,” she said. “We are wiping out trees and wildlife, damaging our environment and our ecosystem. How is this not going to impact the environment that we profess to have respect for in our very own comprehensive plan?”

Hamilton also asked how the road widening and other infrastructure needed will be funded.

“So many questions need to be answered before anymore industrial development progresses,” she said.

Jerry Bazemore inquired of commissioners what responses they would get if they asked the residents of the east end of the county.

“The people of Liberty County do not want this,” he said. “Listen to the people, please.”

Ashley Mosier also urged commissioners to halt approving industrial rezoning requests on the east end.

“It’s going to be like a cancer,” she said. “It’s going to eat us up. We’re not against progress. We are asking the commissioners to stop and take a breath.”

While there is a sizeable amount of acreage between the proposed site and homes along Dorchester Village Road, if that property’s timber is cleared, those residents will have a clear view of the warehouses, LCPC executive director Jeff Ricketson pointed out.

Commissioner Marion Stevens offered a motion to deny the request, citing a lack of infrastructure and the proximity of the buildings to Islands Highway and nearby homeowners. Commissioner Maxie Jones provided a second, but the motion failed to achieve the four votes necessary.

Commissioner Justin Frasier put forth a motion to table the request until the county has finished its infrastructure agreement with developers. Commissioner Eddie Walden, who also asked that the tract’s owners be present at the next meeting the request is heard, seconded, and commissioners passed that motion unanimously.

Blue Scope Properties Group senior manager for property development Eric Wyancko said his firm, which made the request on behalf of CMJ Investments, is working to address concerns.

“We understand the importance of this application and its impact on the county,” he said. “We believe this development is a logical next step for the area and will add to the tax base and provide employment opportunities.

“We want to be a good neighbor. We want to find a way to work in tandem with the community.”

If approved, the project will have a buildout time of three to five years. Wyancko also told commissioners the firm wants to have a secure building and safe access in and out of its tract.

Blue Scope is working on a building of approximately 650,000 square feet in Tradeport East.

“It doesn’t benefit us to have a scenario where it’s not safe out there,” he said.

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