It was a battle of growth versus preservation at Tuesday night's Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting.
In the end, growth won out - at least preliminarily.
At issue was a request by businessman Al Gray to have a site of less than three acres off Washington Road at Fieldstone Way rezoned from residential to commercial.
Residents such as Anca Lipan who live near the site in Chimney Hill and Northwood subdivisions said they were opposed to the rezoning because they think commercial development near the entrance of their subdivision will bring more erosion, traffic and noise problems.
"The noise will be generated on a permanent basis,'' Lipan said.
Nearby resident Doris Koziatek said she had concerns about flooding at her home, which she said might become worse with commercial development on the site.
"He's cut so many trees down there, the erosion is occurring quickly,'' she said.
Gray told commissioners he was willing to find a compromise.
Commissioners decided that compromise would be found in approving the rezoning with a few stipulations: a buffer between the back of the site and nearby homes, a requirement that no signs or lights face Fieldstone Way and a survey of the property to take place before the rezoning is given a final approval.
The rezoning was requested to make the site conform with an adjacent 3.3-acre site, which also is owned by Gray and already was commercially zoned.
By having both properties rezoned commercial, development there is a possibility, commissioners were told Tuesday.
In other action at Tuesday's meeting, Commission Chairman Ron Cross outlined several goals for the county for 2005: closing on a purchase of the 17-acre site in Evans behind the Kroger shopping center for recreational use by county residents, finishing construction on Furys Ferry Road, finishing widening and intersection improvements of Washington Road, and creating a greater focus on extending William Few Parkway to Hardy McManus Road.
A county goal involving green space was met Monday as the county obtained a 140-acre wildlife habitat in Appling near Louisville Road, which includes 30 acres of granite outcrops and is next to The Nature Conservancy's Heggie's Rock Preserve, a protected site of granite that has a rare plant species.
The purchase, announced publicly Wednesday, was for just less than $600,000 and was made possible with $320,000 from the Georgia Wetland Trust Fund, $200,000 from a Georgia Greenspace Program grant, $5,000 from The Nature Conservancy and about $40,000 from Columbia County special local option sales tax money, said Stephanie Thomas-Rees, Columbia County's green space coordinator.
Thomas-Rees said the land will now be protected with a conservation easement that will be overseen by The Nature Conservancy.
"They will become the steward of the land,'' she said.
Thomas-Rees said that by obtaining the land, Columbia County is helping provide a better buffer to the Heggie's Rock Preserve and keeping in line with a state green space guideline to have 20 percent of the county's land preserved for green space.
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