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In-fill developments creating issues

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Posted: December 5, 2011 - 4:45pm  |  Updated: December 14, 2011 - 3:38pm
Builders clear land for Magnolia Trace, a government subsidized development on Old Ferry Road in Martinez. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods are upset about the 50-home subdivison.  Jenna Martin
Jenna Martin
Builders clear land for Magnolia Trace, a government subsidized development on Old Ferry Road in Martinez. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods are upset about the 50-home subdivison.

Twitter @ColumbiaCounty

As new homes continue to be constructed in established areas of Columbia County, the result can have both positive and negative effects on surrounding neighborhoods.

While the concept of “in-fill” development has been around for several years in the county, news of putting 50 government subsidized rental homes in the midst of an older Martinez subdivision has caused an uproar amongst neighbors.

Those residents are planning to speak out at Tuesday’s Columbia County Commission meeting in Evans. They say Magnolia Trace, a “low-income” development on Old Ferry Road, will cause property values to drop, crime rates to increase and overcrowding at nearby schools.

So long as apartment complexes are not included in such in-fill developments, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said he is “guardedly optimistic” they won’t become hotbeds for crime.

“There are a lot of rental houses in Columbia County that are not a problem,” Whittle said. “But there are some that are. It just depends on the renter.”

The affect on the school system for such developments is a bit more worrisome.

Magnolia Trace is in the South Columbia Elementary, Lakeside Middle and Lakeside High school zones.

Already, South Columbia Elementary and Lakeside Middle are Title 1 schools, and Superintendent Charles Nagle said Lakeside High is on the verge of reaching that designation.

To qualify for Title 1, which enables a school to receive federal funding for remediation services, 40 percent of a school’ student body must be on free or reduced lunch.

“South Columbia is already the most impoverished elementary school we have” in terms of family incomes, said Nagle. He added that if all the students at Lakeside High who qualify were to enroll for free or reduced lunches, then it too likely would be a Title 1 school.

Also of concern, Nagle said, is that more high-density housing developments seem to be on the way.

The Magnolia Trace property, zoned for high-density development (R-3), sat unused for more than 30 years as neighborhoods and commercial development sprung up around it.

Just down the street from Magnolia Trace, other vacant property is planned for residential development.

Currently underway is a single-family subdivision on Evans-to-Locks Road across from Jones Creek called Morning Falls. The 26-lot development will have homes starting at $250,000.

Nearby, the county’s planning commission approved Thursday a rezoning to allow for 60 townhomes behind the Kennametal plant on Old Evans Road. Final approval must come from county commissioners.

Apartment complexes Picket Fences on Old Evans Road, and The Haven at Reed Creek on Washington Road, also were constructed in recent years.

When builders go into an already established area, they’re often creating subdivisions with fewer lots and higher densities, said county Development Services Director Richard Harmon said.

“I think it has its pluses and minuses,” Harmon said.

County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said such high-density, lower-price housing is part of a new development trend since expensive houses are too difficult to sell and finance since the economic downturn.

Harmon believes such in-fill developments offer an opportunity to beautify some older neighborhoods.

Government officials are looking for ways to require greenspace by imposing a moratorium on R-2, R-3 and R-3A zonings, which have minimum lot sizes of 7,500 to 10,000 square feet.

By January, Harmon said he’ll likely have a proposal to present to commissioners that require developers in these zoning districts to include amenities, open space, larger buffers or other criteria.

“We need to go from barren land and putting houses on it to barren land and adding open space, greenspace, playgrounds and all these things that really make the neighborhoods look good and attractive,” Harmon said.

On the downside, there’s going to be an increase in traffic and a rise in school populations, Harmon said.

For the school system, it means adding more pupils at schools officials believed would grow no more.

Before Grovetown High opened three years ago, school officials rezoned all the high schools. Part of that rezoning included shifting about 100 students attending Evans High to Lakeside High.

The school board believed Lakeside High could take the added students since future development in its zone seemed unlikely.

“There’s no doubt that high-density housing ... being developed in areas we already had concluded there was no more room for growth does add a tremendous burden on those schools,” Nagle said.

With the exception of Harlem High, Nagle said every other high school in the system is nearing capacity.

“It’s a shot in the dark when you’re trying to relieve a school and figuring out where the next growth is going to be,” Nagle said. “Once you put your finger in the dike to stop one leak, another one pops.”

IF YOU GO

What: Columbia County Commission meeting

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Evans Government Center Auditorium, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, Evans

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Comments (2)

tiredofexcuses

Impact on Lakeside Schools

Ask anyone that works at Lakeside Middle or Lakeside High what impact section 8 housing has had on those schools. Lakeside Middle is now a Title I school and LHS is not far behind. Wedgewood Apartments-alone-has too many unsupervised kids that wreak havoc on each other and the neighborhood. They bring all that drama to the schools they attend. Ask the people at Evans High about the impact Westwood Apartments had on their school. Wake up Columbia County parents! The difference between Richmond county schools and ours is not as great as you think. We just do a better job of keeping it under the radar. Go stand in the lobby or Commons of your child's school one morning and see what I mean. Ron Cross is clueless if he thinks there will be no impact locally due to this new development.

blues550

Magnolia Trace = Title 1

Magnolia Trace. Title 1 Schools. Thanks Ron! Thanks Trey!

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