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Controversial rezoning headed back to planning commission
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A controversial rezoning is headed back to the county planning commission after Effingham County commissioners were puzzled by what to do when one of the parties backed out.

The owners of the Exley tract e-mailed county staff Monday asking that the rezoning be tabled again, until the commissioners’ May 20 meeting. But representatives of the New Savannah property asked that the matter proceed as planned, according to county staff.

“It’s been an interesting couple of days,” interim County Administrator David Crawley said.

Together, the two tracts comprise about 1,043 acres between Goshen Road and Highway 21. Developers and land owners had asked the county to rezone the combined tracts from planned development-mixed use and I-1 to planned development-industrial. The Exley tract, the parcel that borders a residential area along Goshen Road, is about 250 acres. The New Savannah parcel is about 750 acres.

Murray Marshall of Atlantic Investors, who represents the Exley tract group, said they had problems working with some of the conditions being imposed. They will resubmit an application for rezoning.

“We are reworking the site plan,” he said.

Marshall said it was too early to say just what kind of rezoning they will seek and when they will do it.

Because of the zoning that was sought, site plans accompany the request and become part of the zoning.

“There are elements that cannot be constructed if the Exley tract is not included,” county attorney Eric Gotwalt said. “The PD zoning is site specific.”

For instance, a planned rail spur would cut through part of the Exley property, Gotwalt said, and a planned berm also would sit on the Exley portion of the original rezoning.

There’s also a question of whether another development of regional impact review would be needed if the New Savannah tract had to go back through the process from square one.

“With all these factors, I don’t see how we can move forward,” he said. “We’re kind of left in a very peculiar position. I haven’t encountered a situation like this.”

Gotwalt said he would like to get an opinion from the state Department of Community Affairs if another DRI would be needed for the amended rezoning.

“There has already been scrutiny in this case,” he said.