The Hinesville City Council on Thursday approved, with special stipulations, a petition filed by Evans T & T Investments, LLC to rezone 44.12 acres of land for the Retreat at Oak Crest, Phase II and III, over-riding recommendations by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission and public concerns.
The petition requested to rezone the development from R-3 (single-family dwelling district) to R-4 (single, two-family dwelling district). Council members approved the request, with the special stipulation that Oak Crest remain a single-family subdivision.
Gabriele Hartage, planner with Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, noted that the new areas would be inside the flood zone. To offset the added expense of building in a flood zone, the new lots would be smaller than those outside the zone.
A mitigation pond would provide the fill dirt necessary to raise the area above the flood plain. LCPC Director Jeff Ricketson told the Courier on Friday that since the flood-plain area where the soil came from will be deeper in exact proportion to the built-up flood-plain area where the soil is going, there shouldn’t be an impact on the site’s overall floodwater-storage capacity.
“The planning commission unanimously recommended disapproval of this rezoning request at its May 20th meeting, not necessarily because of objection to the proposed ‘cut and fill’ flood-plain mitigation alone, but because of the concerns over the combined impact of the flood-plain mitigation and the additional lots that will be allowed under the new zoning,” Ricketson said, explaining that some commissioners are opposed to building in a flood plain. “The rezoning request for the Retreat at Oak Crest (Phase II) approved by the City Council (Thursday) will allow for the creation of additional lots that will help the developer finance the expense of mitigating the floodplain in that area.”
P.C. Simonton & Associates engineer Marcus Sack told the council about the mitigation pond and how soil could be moved to raise the new area of development above the flood plain.
Three Oak Crest residents approached the council to express their concerns.
“I don’t think the matter at hand is whether to build in a flood zone or not,” said retired soldier Barbara Nabb, who added that Oak Crest is very much a military community. “How is this housing-development plan going to impact the residents that live here now?”
Nabb was followed by Rozine Tressider, who told the council that when her family moved to Oak Crest and joined the homeowners’ association, they were promised a clubhouse, an additional pool, walking trail and fish pond.
She said military families who own homes there can’t sell them when they’re reassigned, and the homes end up in foreclosure. She said no one wants to buy a home without the amenities now promised to the association in the new phase. Current residents won’t be allowed to use those amenities, she said.
“My main concern is the 4.5-acre retention pond they plan on digging to get the dirt to fill the area inside the floodplain,” Joanne Hubbell told the council. “That pond will be a source of mosquitoes and will fill with trash that nobody will clean up. These proposed amenities aren’t necessarily going to happen ... Oak Crest has been nothing but a disappointment.”
In other business, the council heard the fiscal year 2013 audit report by city auditors Clifton, Lipford, Hardison & Parker. The report said the auditors’ “unmodified opinion” is that Hinesville’s financial statements are clean and without significant deficiencies. It was noted, though, that the Government Finance Officers Association recommended that Hinesville’s unrestricted general-fund balance for FY 2013 should have been $2,868,540, but that its actual unrestricted general-fund balance for FY 3013 was $2,026,487.
Carl Blount of Blount’s Wrecker Services addressed the council to discuss why his company was removed from the rotation list regarding charges allowed for consensual and nonconsensual towing. Assistant City Manager Ken Howard told Blount that an audit showed his charges for towing exceeded the city policy of $125 for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds or less. Blount was charging $250 per vehicle, he said.
At one point, Blount and Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier had a heated exchange. Councilman Kenneth Shaw said he didn’t think they should criticize Blount at a public hearing and suggested the council work with him as it had done with other businesses. Frasier reminded council members this was an information item and not something they had to decide on that day and told Blount the council would get back with him.
The council heard about or decided on three grant-related items.
Councilors approved a request for yard-waste grinding on J.V. Road and the installation of UV equipment for the wastewater-treatment plant on Fort Stewart. A recommendation to award a bid of $1,583,167 by McLendon Enterprises for Fort Stewart’s utility relocation on Veterans Parkway was challenged by Frasier and Councilman Keith Jenkins with questions about whether the company meets requirements for the city’s Woman and Minority Business Enterprise program. Though the request was approved, Frasier said he wanted to see evidence the company complied with the WMBE policy.
They heard about sub-recipients and award amounts for funds from a community-development block grant, then approved an application for the Ed Byrne Memorial Grant and resolution for a funding agreement for a transportation-enhancement grant.
The council re-visited an issue from the previous month in which Coliseum Sports Palace owner Tyrone Adams had questioned why the occupancy rating for his club had been reduced to 252.
Howard advised the council it was their discretion to remove the restriction, which was based on available parking spaces. The council unanimously decided to return the occupancy rating to 467.