Theres no wrapping paper or big red ribbon, but Grove-town residents are getting a welcome Christmas present this year: The cleanup of one of the citys ugliest eyesores.
Its the corner of Wrightsboro and Whiskey roads, next to Goodale Park. A trailer park at the site long ago deteriorated into a junkyard of dilapidated and burned-out mobile homes. A church-oriented cleanup didnt work out, either.
Now, a retail strip is on the way for the Wrightsboro frontage of the 13-acre site, with the rest of it going to a shiny new apartment buildings.
The Grovetown Commons apartment complex will be similar to Westwood Club Apartments on Washington Road in Evans. And like Westwood, the complex is being built with tax-exempt bonds induced by the Columbia County Development Authority.
No local tax dollars are involved in financing the project; the loans come from a federal program that requires the developer to set the rental price based on the areas median income to attract low- to moderate-income residents.
Weve been critical of the countys use of this program in the past, including the guarantees that built Westwood. The Development Authority earns a small profit by serving as the pass-through agency for the bonds, but Columbia County taxpayers potentially take a hit because of the potential for such projects to attract an influx of residents to overcrowded schools.
Westwood, for example, was predicted to send 60 new students to nearby Bel Air Elementary. The 180 apartments at Grovetown Commons likewise could strain Grovetown Elementary.
Theres no arguing that there is a demand for modestly priced housing in Columbia County; after all, not everyone can afford a $100,000 home. But how comfortable are taxpayers with their government working to attract renters?
Even with those reservations, the construction of virtually anything on the blighted Grovetown site is an improvement. City officials are thrilled that their fast-growing city will have more options for welcoming new residents, and finally getting the site cleaned up is a bonus.
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