Harris County commission votes down rezoning request in nearly four hour long meeting

Harris County residents oppose homes on quarter-acre lots

Harris and Muscogee County residents voiced concerns about a 196-home subdivision during an August 21, 2019 Harris County Planning Commission Meeting.
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Harris and Muscogee County residents voiced concerns about a 196-home subdivision during an August 21, 2019 Harris County Planning Commission Meeting.

There was standing room only in the Harris County High School auditorium Tuesday night as county residents gathered in a nearly four hour long meeting to voice their outrage over a developer’s request to put 196 homes near the Muscogee County line.

Over 70 people spoke against Dave Erickson’s request on behalf of Grey Rock Development LLC to put the homes on 137.8 acres on Grey Rock Road, and the board of commissioners listened, voting unanimously to deny his application to rezone the parcel.

The request was to rezone the property from an R1 zoning designation, meaning homes on no less than 2 acres, to a PRD zoning, meaning homes on a quarter of an acre.

The board also placed a 90-day moratorium on approving any more PRD rezonings until they can work to appease residents who say they don’t want any new homes built on less than two acres.

The vote came after citizen outcry that led to a packed planning commission meeting last month, where that board also voted unanimously to recommend denial of the application.

Citizens also formed a Facebook group to discuss plans to oppose the zoning, creating T-shirts and yard signs with the hashtag “Save Harris County GA.” During Tuesday’s meeting, most stated they wanted to preserve the county’s rural character and were concerned about the impact on local schools, law enforcement and emergency response, roads, crime, taxes and property values.

In his address to the board, Erickson deferred heavily to the county’s 2019 Comprehensive Master Plan, a roadmap for the county’s future development that they are required by the state to update every five years.

A future development map, approved along with the plan by the Harris County Board of Commissioners after input from citizens, county staff and planning board members, shows that the parcel of land where the development is proposed is earmarked as a “developing suburban area” or “rural residential” property.

Erickson pointed out that the plan states the “preferred” zoning classifications for properties earmarked as such include PRD zonings. The details can be viewed on page 31 of the master plan, available on the county website.

“We’re in complete agreement with the PRD, we’re in complete agreement with the comprehensive plan, it is a preferred zoning request of your comprehensive plan,” Erickson said. “This is about a piece of property, and it’s about a simple question: is this piece of property appropriate for PRD zoning?”

Erickson said on Wednesday he was extremely disappointed by the board’s decision.

“We followed the county comprehensive plan...followed the county PRD requests for that zoning, provided very clear facts that everything was a net positive for it, but in the end the commissioners didn’t want to hear that and they listened to a bunch of people that don’t want to move forward with growth in the county,” he said. “That’s completely their right.”

When asked if he would bring the application back to the county in the future or take another course of action, Erickson said he had no concrete plans.

“My partners and I will have to evaluate our position and decide what we think we need to do going forward,” he said.

Prior to meetings of the planning commission and board of commissioners, Harris County Planning Director Brian Williams and the planning department staff are required to make a recommendation of approval or denial based on the county’s code of ordinances and if the request fits the best use of the property. He recommended approval of the rezoning.

The Ledger-Enquirer reached out to Williams on Wednesday to inquire about actions Erickson could take to resubmit the zoning or appeal the commission’s decision, but had not heard back as of press time.

Allie Dean is the Columbus city government and accountability reporter for the Ledger, and also writes about new restaurants, developments and issues important to readers in the Chattahoochee Valley. She’s a graduate of the University of Georgia.