LEESBURG, Ga. -- Developer Gary Eller admonished a group from a south Lee County neighborhood fighting rezoning requests that would allow Eller and his partner, Nordstar LLC, to build townhomes and bring commercial development adjacent to the group's neighborhood.
"The only one who likes change is a newborn baby," Eller said at the Lee County Commission's work meeting Tuesday evening. "But change is going to come."
The change that Eller is seeking -- rezoning that would allow Nordstar to build 46 townhomes and villas adjacent to the golf course at the Grand Island Club off Ledo Road and bring a number of "mom-and-pop-type specialty retailers" to land off the in-the-works Westover Road Extension -- has sparked the ire of a group in the Palmyra Subdivision, which spoke out against the rezoning and development at a public hearing Tuesday.
"I have with me a petition with 165 signatures of people (near the proposed development) opposing the rezoning," said Vincent Dubiansky, who spoke on behalf of 30-35 citizens who attended the commission meeting. "And these people represent roughly $40 million in investment already made in the county. Our rights should be considered.
"Mr. Eller said these units will sell for $115 a foot, but who's going to pay $115 a foot for a home behind Walmart, where they'll hear the Dumpsters being picked up at 6 o'clock every morning? And who's going to pay $115 a foot to live in a place that looks out over an Outback (Steakhouse) Dumpster? And they say they won't allow rental or lease signs on the property, but if the units don't sell, Nordstar could rent the units themselves. This development would negatively affect the quality and value of our homes."
Eller asked the commission to rezone 6.124 acres of land from R-1 to R-2 (multi-family residential) to build 46 housing units looking onto Grand Island that would be known as Golfview Villas/Townhomes and 4.415 acres of land along the Westover Road Extension to be rezoned C-2 (general business) for retail development adjacent to the planned townhomes.
"This development will allow people to live in Lee County, work in Lee County and shop in Lee County," Eller said. "It will bring needed jobs, tax revenue, utilities customers and revenue for Grand Island. The Board of Commissioners has the authority -- and the duty -- to represent the best interests of the whole of Lee County, not just one special-interest group."
Eller pointed out during a slide presentation that much of the property adjoining the Palmyra Subdivision is already zoned for commercial usage.
"There are undeveloped lots that look like nice wooded areas, but they are zoned commercial," he said. "There already exists a tremendous amount of property that runs up to the back fenses of the Palmyra Subdivision that is zoned for commercial development. Have these properties lessened the value of the subdivision? The answer is no.
"I made it clear to the people in this subdivision that I'd be glad to meet and discuss with them -- individually or as a group -- any concerns they might have about our development, but only one or two people have bothered to do so. I regret that I was not given that opportunity."
Commissioner Dennis Roland said he is more sympathetic of the group's concerns after learning more about the particulars of the development.
"I'm still undecided," he said, "but I feel now we should have done more investigating into the impact the Westover Road Extension would have on these people. I said a long time ago that I was in favor of the road, but I didn't really realize the impact it would have."
In other action at the meeting, the commission approved a $287,797.18 bid by Reeves Construction Co. to pave Flowing Well and Donald roads in southeast Lee County. Commissioner Bill Williams, who represents the district that includes the roads, said the approved bid represents a big step forward for the district.
"A priority of mine when I was elected was to see that Lane Acres (Subdivision) and Flowing Well Road were paved," Williams said. "These roads were originally scheduled to be paved about 10 years ago when SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) IV was passed, but the money allocated for the roads was redirected. And since I have been on the board, we have applied for two CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) grants for these roads but were turned down both times.
"When our new SPLOST VI was passed, this board decided to include these roads with projects to be funded with advanced funding. Tonight, we approve the bids to pave Donald and Flowing Well. We still have to obtain a few rights-of-way for David Road, Lane Drive, Ragan Street and Thomas Street (in Lane Acres), and as soon as these are obtained, we will approve bids for these roads."
Commission Chairman Ed Duffy praised Williams for his relentless effort to get the roads paved.
"I'm glad Bill was persistent," Duffy said. "This is long overdue."