Massive citizen opposition to development foothold in agricultural and forestry area @ GLPC 2022-12-08

Update 2023-01-29: Lowndes County nixes planned Dollar General –VDT 2023-01-26.

Update 2022-12-09: Packet: Dollar General may be tabled @ LCC 2022-12-12. Go ahead and ask them to deny it.

We don’t need more clearcutting, impervious surface, petroleum runoff, and trash, uphill from the Withlacoochee River, setting a precedent for further sprawl into a forestry and agricultural area, costing the county money, and everybody downstream as well.

This Lowndes County, Georgia, rezoning decision affects the entire county and everybody downstream all the way into Florida, for drinking water, flood prevention, wildlife, river water quality, and quality of life.

You can write to the Lowndes County Commission: And in the public hearing Tuesday evening at 5:30 PM, you can speak, no matter where you come from.

If you live or own land in Lowndes County, you can sign the petition.

Malia Thomas, Valdosta Daily Times, December 8, 2022, (links and illustrations added by jsq), Rezoning sparks neighborhood petition,

VALDOSTA — More than 120 Lowndes County residents have signed a petition to keep Dollar General away from their rural community.

011-gretchen-no-commercial-needed, speaking first of a line of citizen opposition at the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission 2022-11-28; Video for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange by Gretchen Quarterman.

Residents voiced their opposition to the proposed development of a new Dollar General on Highway 122 at Skipper Bridge Road at the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission meeting last month.

Teramore Development, the retail real estate company behind the project, has requested to rezone three acres of the 35-acre subject property from Estate Agricultural to Crossroads Commercial.

[to develop a Dollar General on approximately 3 acres of the 35-acre subject property.]
to develop a Dollar General on approximately 3 acres of the 35-acre subject property.

J.D. Dillard, director of planning, noted in his write up that the TRC made no objectionable comments about the request and planning staff found it consistent with the county comprehensive plan and recommended approval.

Bill Nijem, attorney at Langdale Vallotton, spoke in favor of the request and told commissioners that the developer is “sensitive” to the rural area and plans on accommodating that as much as possible, and the current site plans are not set in stone.

Peter Schoenauer, president of Tidewater Engineering, spoke in favor of the request, saying the company will address the access point and do its best to minimize negative impact on the environment.

Gretchen Quarterman was the first resident to speak against the request, stating she didn’t need a Dollar General within 2.5 miles from her home when there are several Dollar Generals within a five- to seven-mile radius.

Becky Rowntree Harris said the community has no interest in trading “convenience” for “peace.”

“We appreciate the trees, the wildlife and the privacy, and I don’t think you all would find anybody out here that wants this,” she said.

Six other Skipper Bridge residents followed them, all expressing similar concerns of what the commercial development would do to the surrounding wetlands, with the planned site being a short distance uphill from the Withlacoochee River.

After hearing all sides, the GLPC voted to recommend denial 7-1.

In an interview with The Valdosta Daily Times, John Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, said while the vote is a step in the right direction, the community still has to keep fighting the development until the Lowndes County Commission makes a final decision during the Dec. 13 meeting.

Here is the agenda.

The subject tract is in District 2, Commissioner Scottie Orenstein, and Super District 5, Commissioner Clay Griner.

But you can contact all of the Commissioners:

The story continues:

He encourages residents to write and call their district’s commissioner. He added the river already has problems with contamination after big rains, resulting in an ongoing WWALS upstream river and creek testing program.

“Adding a fast-food business there would add more contamination from construction, cars, and of course trash. We spend enough time already cleaning beer cans, plastic water bottles and styrofoam cups out of the Withlacoochee River. We don’t need more trash and other contamination upstream,” he said.

“Look, if we wanted to live in Atlanta, we’d move there. That Dollar General gets built, what’s the next step? Then the other 112 acres on that property? They’ll want to develop that. And also other properties nearby will want to put in subdivisions or more stores, and what if that thing gets in there? It’s a foothold to develop in that whole area. And that has adverse effects on everything.

“I just mentioned the forest through the agriculture and watersheds and of course, the peaceful way of life here. We don’t need more of that by the Withlacoochee River.”

[Under the bow, 13:09:58, 30.9867100, -83.2730552]
Under the bow, 13:09:58, 30.9867100, -83.2730552
2018-02-11; Photo: John S. Quarterman.

Quarterman said the area from Skipper Bridge to Cat Creek Road is supposed to be for forestry and agriculture, per the Lowndes County Comprehensive Plan, and the plan protects agriculture, forestry, wildlife, hunting and fishing, and for drinking water.

Courtesy SGRC and Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.

“In economic terms, sprawl far from existing services causes more school bus runs, deputy sheriff calls and fire department visits, which can never be paid for by property taxes. Trees don’t go to school and don’t call the sheriff or the fire department,” he said.

“People in subdivisions do. Unless you’re building million dollar houses in each lot in the subdivision, which they’re not, they will not recover that kind of cost from property taxes. So the farther out you sprawl, the more it’s a net loss for the tax digest at the county, which is subsidized by everybody else,” he said.

The Dorfman Report

In 2007 the Lowndes County Commission paid for a study by a UGA professor. In his report he spelled out the economic consequences of sprawl.

sprawl The Local Government Fiscal Impacts of Land Use in Lowndes County: Revenue and Expenditure Streams by Land Use Category, Jeffrey H. Dorfman, Ph.D., Dorfman Consulting, December 2007.

As Dr. Dorfman summarized in a different presentation,

Local governments must ensure balanced growth, as
sprawling residential growth is a certain ticket to fiscal ruin*
* Or at least big tax increases.

All that plus the famous 2009 and 2013 “700-year” floods that put Valdosta’s old Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant underwater and that closed numerous roads, including the Skipper Bridge Road bridge over Hutchinson Mill Creek north of the subject tract, were not caused by record rains: they were caused by too much clearcutting and impervious surface, as in parking lots and buildings.

You can help stop this foothold for sprawl.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!