SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County Board of Commissioners narrowily approved a hotly contested rezoning request during its Sept. 15 meeting.
Commissioners OK’d an application to rezone 741.6 acres off Old Augusta Road near Rincon from AR-1/R1 to I-1 with several conditions to buffer the site along Chimeny Road and near Silverwood Plantation. The Effingham County Planning Board previously recommended denying the request for the site that will be used for a warehouse complex.
A review of the new conditions was given by County Engineer Charlie George. He said that Old Pines LLC, the rezoning applicant, would have to create a 300-foot long, 12-foot high earthen buffer with a tree cover to shield residents of Chimney Road. In addition, the complex can have no entrance onto Chimney Road and the loading dock doors cannot face Chimney Road. It also has to limit the sound and adjust any lighting so as not to be stronger than a “full moon,” among other changes.
George also stated that plans call for the site to be used for a warehousing operation only. The rezoning request was changed to light industrial from the original request of heavy industrial in order to satisfy some of the concerns expressed by nearby neighborhoods. The truck entrance will be on Old Augusta Road and not be accessed by Chimney Road.
The council meeting room was packed with residents who live near the proposed warehouse complex. Most opposed it but a few spoke in favor.
Mitch Birzer, vice president of the Silverwood Plantation Homeowners Association, spoke against the measure, citing that 92 percent of their residents who responded to a survey opposed the request. He also cited an article on California zoning issues that said particulate pollution from warehouses had caused health problems there and that buffers of 1,500 feet had been recommended.
Chimney Road resident Anissa Granthem said, as a licensed counselor, she is very concerned about the impact of industrial activity in residential areas and added there is already a lot of chronic stress present due to COVID-19. She said this move could lead to high anxiety, chronic stress and even increased depression.
Perry Mincey, a Silverwood resident, is OK with the warehouse development.
Rezoning applicant Chad Zitterour, said that only approximately 50 percent of the property will be used for this project.
Wilson Burns, representing Old Pines LLC, responded to one resident's concern that the rezoning would make it more difficult to sell homes in the Silverwood, Chimney Creek and Mills Creek areas by saying that a house on Chimney Road just recently closed with the knowledge of the potential rezoning.
Commissioner Forrest Floyd said he thought county staff had "gone above and beyond to try and balance” the issues.
Commissioners Wesley Corbitt, Jamie DeLoach and Reggie Loper voted to grant the request. Phil Kieffer and Roger Burdette were opposed.