Harris County residents oppose homes on quarter-acre lots
Citizens in Harris County are in an uproar over a proposed development that could bring nearly 200 families to a plot of land on the Muscogee County line.
Dave Erickson, managing partner of Grey Rock Development LLC, has submitted a rezoning application to the county that will allow him to construct a neighborhood of 196 homes on 137.8 acres, meaning lot sizes between a quarter of an acre and half an acre.
The land located at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Grey Rock Road is currently vacant.
Residents packed a small meeting room in the Harris County courthouse Wednesday to oppose the high-density development, with over 100 people spilling out into the hall.
A Facebook page dedicated to stopping the development had over 1,000 likes before the meeting, and signs with the hashtag “Save Harris County Ga” were placed in yards across the county.
At the end of the meeting, the Harris County Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend denial of the rezoning. The board of commissioners will have final say during their meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 3.
The rezoning would reclassify the property from an R1 zoning designation, which allows for homes on no less than two acres, to a PRD zoning designation, which allows for a minimum lot size of 1/4 acre. In addition, a minimum of 8% of the development must be designated for commercial development, and the development must have a minimum of three open space amenities.
The development is also located along the stretch of U.S. 27/Veterans Parkway coming from northern Muscogee County into Harris County that the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to widen. The intersection of U.S. 27 and Ga. 315 is also proposed to be a new roundabout location.
Other items proposed in the development:
11 acres of commercial property, though no firm plans for what kind of business
48 acres of green space including a playground and park areas
Veterans Parkway will be the primary entrance
Gray Rock Road will be the secondary entrance
A homeowner’s association will maintain the green space and facilities
Home prices will be targeted at $250,000 to $350,000 in today’s dollars
Sanitary sewer will be available through a lift station connected to Columbus Water Works
“There is a significant trend across the nation for larger houses on smaller lots, so Harris County is simply starting in a direction that much of the country has already been doing for a very long time,” Erickson said at Wednesday night’s meeting.
Erickson is currently president of Grayhawk Homes and has been a builder in the Columbus-Phenix City market for 27 years. He’s also the former president of the Greater Columbus Home Builders Association and in his career has overseen the completion of over 4,000 houses, he said.
He also addressed some “misinformation” he said had been circulating about the development.
“The biggest number one misinformation that I know on the table is that the Harris County taxpayers were going to pay for the sewer lift station; categorically not true,” Erickson said. “All of the cost for the sewer lift station, the sewer system, the sewer piping in the roads, water connections, road building, power, street signs, stop signs is a developer expense.”
He also said there are no apartments proposed and no Section 8 or subsidized housing planned.
Erickson said he had visited neighbors of the property and tried as best as he could to reach out to them about the proposed development. Of the eight he was able to speak with, three were neutral and five said they supported it, he said.
But no one spoke in favor of the rezoning during the hearing, and most of the two dozen people who spoke in opposition said the development would negatively impact their quality of life.
Tony Link, a 34-year resident of Grey Rock Road, said he must have not been home when Erickson came to his house.
He said Grey Rock Road was already in bad shape and that the county should be prepared to spend money fixing it to accommodate traffic from the subdivision. He also said he hoped the planning commission would take into consideration the beauty and integrity of Harris County.
“I hope that you keep in mind this rural environment that Harris County is is just a cherished thing,” Link said. “They don’t make much land anymore, and if we cover it up with a bunch of houses like this, I don’t know where we’re going to go.”
Other big concerns from residents stemmed from the high density: crowded schools and roadways, lower property values and safety issues were cited the most.
“Approving the quarter-acre lots will lower housing values due to oversupply and I believe increase tax rates for all Harris County residents to support the community services needed for this high-density development,” said Kevin Boykin of Old Gate Road. “Adding an additional 300 to 400 students would put an undue burden on the school system and possibly lead to worse educational outcomes for the current students of Harris County due to overcrowding.”
Residents were also incensed by a vote Tuesday night by the board of commissioners to increase the property tax rate by .75 mils.
Hamilton Mulberry Grove Road resident Meghan Guenther said Harris County obviously can’t handle the cost for services to additional residents.
“We just increased our taxes, we’re underpaying our sheriffs, we’re underpaying our county workers,” Guenther said. “We do not have any extra money in our budget to allow any additional hires.”
The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the rezoning due to the uncertainty surrounding the feasibility of the commercial component, the proximity of a nearby rock quarry and the potential for overcrowding of county schools.