SPRINGFIELD — Opponents of an Effingham County rezoning request didn’t get the clear-cut victory they wanted but they managed to force overtime.
After a lengthy and occasionally emotional Aug. 18 public hearing, the Effingham Board of Commissioners tabled the second reading of an application by Kern & Co. LLC to rezone 741.6 acres off Old Augusta Road near Rincon from AR-1/R1 to I-1 (heavy industrial). Residents on Chimney Road and nearby subdivisions oppose the request because a warehouse complex is planned for the property.
The unanimous vote occurred after Pat McCorkhill, president of the Silverwood Plantation Homeowners Association, asked commissioners to take more time to consider the ramifications of the warehouse project. He said the request conflicts with the county’s recently adopted comprehensive plan, which discourages heavy industrial land use near existing residential areas.
“Let’s get some more stakeholders involved,” he said. “Let’s get a little more discussion going.”
McCorkhill and other naysayers to the warehouse proposal cite increased noise, traffic and crime as leading concerns. They also predict a reduction in their home values.
Unlike a July 27 Effingham County Planning Board hearing in which resulted in a vote to deny the request, a few residents from the area voiced support for warehouses, saying they will result in less noise, less traffic and less crime than using the land for additional housing. Similar support was expressed to commissioners via phone calls and emails.
“That group of people really, to me, they realize something is coming to the piece of property and they want to have a voice in trying to make sure that what we do is the best use for the piece of property knowing that it is going to be developed,” said Wilson Burns, a project representative.
Kern and Co. touted the creation of 1,000 jobs and additional tax revenue that the warehouses would create.
“A home needs to reach about $450,000 in value to carry its own place without costing the taxpayers (in services,” Burns said. “The median price in Effingham County is $155,000 ...”
Kern and Co. has made several concessions, including providing 148 acres of buffer. The complex would also be lined with a berm topped with vegetation.
In addition, there would be no access from Chimney Road and dock doors would face away from Chimney Road residents.
Kern and Co. also offered not to use the property for other uses permitted in I-1. County officials and opponents openly wondered if that is legally enforceable.
That question will be answered before the next public hearing. It is set for Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. at the Effingham County Administrative Complex.