SCBC approve rezoning request for Duplex Development

The Stephens County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning request for a duplex development. The decision was made on Tuesday during the commission’s regular scheduled meeting.

As WNEG News previously reported, the Stephens County Planning Commission approved this request last week.

On Tuesday, County Administrator Christian Hamilton explained that ABCDP Inc. was requesting to rezone the property located on Mize Road, in Toccoa. The property was zoned as agriculture residential. The proposed action to be taken was to rezone 11.08 acres to residential multi to allow for a duplex development.

Stephens County Development Authority President and CEO Brittany Ivey spoke in favor of the rezoning request. She says the duplex development will bring work force housing to Stephens County.

“One of the things that the Development Authority has been working towards since we did our strategic planning in 2021 is affordable workforce housing to provide housing for growing our workforce here in our community. The price point for the development in question for those apartments is anywhere between $1,000 and $1,300 per month. Of course before we even started looking to bring affordable housing to the community, we worked with the school system and the hospital to make sure that we could handle the growth and they were all on board and we’re united in our belief that this is the type of housing that we need in our community,” she said.

Several residents were concerned about how many duplex units would be built on the property.

The commissioners explained that while the residential multi zoning would allow 8 units per acre it doesn’t mean that that’s how many units the topography will allow. So there could be far fewer than what the zoning would allow.

Ivey tells WNEG News that the developer is waiting on an engineering study which will show what the topography will allow.

“We are not 100 percent sure how many units will be there yet. Due to the zoning, 88 doors or units would be all that are allowed on 11 acres. So, it won’t be 80 duplexes as that would be 160 units and that’s not even allowed. He’s holding off on completing his engineering studies until the zoning is passed and then he’ll know what the topography of the land will support and we’ll have a better idea of how many units will be on the site,” she said.

A main focal point for the residents who were in favor of the development were the significance of having affordable workforce housing in Stephens County.

Ivey says they took all the information from the industry visits that were conducted since March 2021. She says every industry she visited shared their struggles with hiring and how a lack of housing was impacting that. Industries were recruiting good candidates but when they started looking for housing there was none.

A report from the Department of Labor and Work Source Georgia shows that over 3,600 individuals commute into our community each day to work. Some commuting from Oconee, South Carolina and 133 commuting from Gwinnett County. Many commuters will commute long distances until they find a job with comparable pay in the communities they are commuting from which results in them leaving our local employers for job opportunities where they live.

For our industries, Ivey says, this means that they have invested in training just to lose them. The fact is employees might commute for a while; but, with the rising cost of gas over the last two years they have started looking for jobs where they live which is creating problems with retention in our industries.

Despite the opposition, the Stephens County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning request.