Help Save the Rural Integrity of Harris County, Georgia

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The rural integrity of Harris County is being compromised. Yes, Harris County has been getting less rural year after year, but it seems the last couple years the development is coming in faster and faster. Development and growth are inevitable, but we need to make sure our county is growing in the right direction. The county officials and decision makers are allowing these companies to come in and rezone our agricultural land to R-1, where they build large cookie cutter homes on clear-cut lots. There seems to be little to no regard on how these developments are affecting the quality of life for those of us who choose to live in Harris County for a little land and a lot of peace and quiet. Not to mention what these developments are doing to our infrastructures, the increase in traffic to our once quiet roads, the strain they are putting on our safety officials (HCSO, EMS, and volunteer Firefighters), and the overcrowding of our schools. 

Harris County is known to have a two-acre minimum and until a few weeks ago many people didn't know there was a workaround to that minimum unless you lived in the city limits of Hamilton or Pine Mountain. There is a zoning, called PUD, that allows for builders/developers to build on lots smaller than 2 acres. They are required to have planned "green space" and conserve some of the land and in return, they can build homes on much smaller lots. Hughston Homes is developing a PRD off of Hart Rd in Fortson, where many of the lots are less than an acre. The county is trying to decide if these types of neighborhoods are beneficial to the county and it seems like they are considering more of them. The appeal is to drive numbers so commercial property will move into Harris County, but for the same reasons mentioned above (traffic, congestion, infrastructure, safety, and schools) the residents are concerned that our well-being isn't being considered and that more tax revenue is the only concern.

The Mulberry Creek area (Fortson/Cataula) residents are extremely concerned with the direction our county is going due to the already approved Grove Development (1100 acres of mixed-use property with homes/apartments/retail/offices/hotels), the approval for the PRD Hart Preserve development in Fortson, and now the possibility of another large Hughston Homes development of 80 homes off of Hwy 315 in Fortson, which requires 219.69 acres of A-1 land to be rezoned to R-1.

The planning board had a meeting last night (2/21/18) to discuss the proposal and rezoning of the land on 315 and despite their reservations, they passed it to move on to the board of commissioners, which will have the final vote March 6, 2018. I was told legally Hughston has met all their stipulations but the system is flawed because they have a lot of unanswered questions and concerns they felt needed to be addressed. 

The proposed development will have 80 homes in the neighborhood on 2 acre lots, but since the neighborhood is so large they will need two entrances. One will be on 315 and the other will be on Grantham Dr. If you haven’t driven down Grantham, it’s a small county rd that is at a dead end so currently it only has the traffic of the residents. It is very thin and not equipped with a lot of traffic. It also has two sharp, 90-degree "curves" that are very dangerous for people who don't know the road. If Hughston Homes would lower the number of houses they could get away with one entrance off of 315 but that did not seem like an option last night.

One major concern is traffic. The traffic this neighborhood is going to bring to the area, the cut-through traffic through the neighborhood, the unneeded traffic to Grantham. The board asked for a traffic analysis but were told that Hughston Homes didn't have one and it's usually is done AFTER they get approval to rezone from A-1 to R-1. The board agreed that this seems backward but unfortunately, this is how things are done. 

Another HUGE concern is that this will be directly next to and across Hwy 315 from the already approved Grove development that will be on 1100 acres of mix used property (houses/-apartments/retail/hotels/etc.). (* Side note: If you don't know about this development, I highly suggest that you do because it will change the whole dynamic of Harris County.) The planning board is concerned that the added congestion and traffic could be a big issue in this area.

The layout and the need for 80 houses were addressed by the planning committee but no real answer was given on why Hughston Homes needs to put 80 homes on this tract of land instead of making it a nicer neighborhood with larger lots and more trees. They also had concerns about part of the land being on a flood plain and what that meant to the development and the neighboring houses. 

Another concern is schools. Where are all these kids going to go? They already have 80 houses being built on Hart Rd, proposing another 80 off of 315 and then when the Grove gets developed we are talking 2198 units being developed (I don’t have the exact number of houses/apartments/condos) and that is specified in the New Mountain Hill Elementary zone. Not to mention the homes Hughston alone is building in their other developments across the county, including Catuala, Waverly Hall, and Hamilton. Harris County currently has 4 elementary schools, 1 intermediate (5&6) school, 1 middle school, and 1 high school. These homes they are building are large (3000-5000/sqft on average) and will most likely have several kids per house but there is no regard to how these developments are affecting our schools and children's education. 

Crime/Safety is another concern. With more people comes more crime. Our HCSO does a great job monitoring our county and keeping us safe but they are already low in numbers. Adding more residents is only going to make their job harder. Plus, our EMS and volunteer firefighters will have more houses to cover as well.

We are asking for support from the entire county, not only the residents directly affected by these developments. If these developments aren't next to you currently, they are coming to your direction. We as a county need to start standing up and start protecting our county or we won't have anything left to protect. We need to hold our elected officials accountable. We elected them to make decisions on our behalf and stand up for our beliefs. Driving revenue to the county is important. No one likes paying taxes but are willing to sell our county and our county way of life to these developers? If so, at what cost? 

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