During their Thursday, July 7, Liberty County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, commissioners voted in favor of rezoning 436.97 acres of land from agricultural to industrial for warehouse distribution facilities on property that sits behind and adjacent to Tradeport East.
According to Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Executive Director Jeff Ricketson, the proposed use is warehouse distribution, so there will be no negative impacts from smoke, odor, toxic gases, glare and heat, sewage or vibrations.
The property is owned by Laurel View Projects, LLC. Travis Stringer said the property has been in his family for three generations and was originally a timber and forestry operation. He said the current proposed expansion to Tradeport East will end with the rezoning request he submitted, because the remainder of the land will be utilized for quail hunting in conjunction with the Dorchester Shooting Preserve and also for proposed future residential and commercial use.
Stringer said that it is considered an expansion of Tradeport East, but it will remain privately owned, though partnerships with the Industrial Authority and the county were required to make the project viable.
The warehouses will have access roads off Tradeport East Road and Old Sunbury Road.
Commissioner Marion Stevens asked who would fund the project and how it would impact fire service ISO ratings.
An ISO fire rating is a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies by the Insurance Services Office that reflects how prepared a community or area is for fires.
County engineer Trent Long said some of the funding would come from the state, but the county would need to contribute to the project. The project size is approximately 4 million square feet, and the estimated annual tax revenue for the project is $3,894,272.
Stevens and Commissioner Justin Frazier asked the board to be more observant to the county’s Comprehensive Plan and pause further projects until more studies are done for the surrounding land areas.
A large contingent of people who reside near the proposed warehouse complex were at the meeting to oppose the rezoning. Chairman Donald Lovette explained that only people who reside within 200 feet of the proposed warehouse — and no one resides within 200 feet — could speak out on the matter. But he did allow the people to select a spokesperson to speak on behalf of the group.
Spokesperson David Cay said the project doesn’t meet minimum codes for EMS, fire service and first responders and would endanger them and people who live in the immediate area. He said it was also in violation of roadway improvement requirements.
Marcie Hamilton, who formed a Facebook group called “Residents for Liberty County Ga.,” had rallied against the proposed project, getting signatures to oppose the rezoning and support from those who live on the east end of the county. Several letters were sent to all the commissioners explaining the impact this project would have on traffic and their properties.
“We all know that there are no residential neighbors impacted,” Hamilton commented on Facebook during the county meeting. “Just marsh and wetlands and animals and the environment. But the entirety of East Liberty will be impacted as well. That’s a disingenuous argument regarding the impact to residents. A pause would be appropriate until we see a growth plan and confirmed infrastructure plan. There’s too much at stake for the residents of East Liberty and Liberty County itself.”
Hamilton said the residents of East Liberty asked to show a presentation and were not allowed to.
“Why were we not allowed the same opportunity as the petitioner?” she asked. “This doesn’t seem too equitable as we are the ones being impacted the most by this industrialization.”
Lovette conceded that the board needed to take a better look when they update their Comprehensive Plan and look beyond the county’s immediate corridors. He said what is agricultural land now might develop into something different in the future and that the board should take more steps to determine what should remain wetlands and off-limits to development.
The board then voted to follow the LCPD’s recommendation to rezone the property. This is the second area of land approved by the board despite heavy opposition from homeowners this year.
At the March 1 commissioners’ meeting, the board approved the rezoning of 230 acres east of I-95 off Islands Highway and Dorchester Village Road from agricultural to business and industrial commercial use. The petitioner, the Foram Group, is going to develop the land for warehouse and industrial use similar to Tradeport East and also some small businesses facing Islands Highway. This is the same parcel of land recently in headlines as a proposed casino site in Midway.