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Building boom continues in Henry, slows in Clayton

By Ed Brock and Justin Boron

Shawn Davidson is loving his new home in Clayton County and he says the other homes in his neighborhood are selling fast.

He moved into Waggoner Place subdivision off Rex Road in Rex on Feb. 23 after living in Decatur for the past 13 years since moving down from North Carolina.

"I wanted to be in an area that was a little more private, for the scenery and the taxes," Davidson said.

Taxes may be lower, but the building in and around his neighborhood may not the accommodate the privacy sought by the 38-year old teacher in DeKalb County.

Along with the south side of Clayton County, Rex is one of the last areas with large portions of undeveloped land.

Meanwhile, in Henry County hot spots of growth like Locust Grove continue to boost construction with new residential and commercial development.

Building permits in Henry County are on pace to exceed the number issued last year and Clayton's most likely will fall very short of the number it issued the previous year.

As of February, Henry County has given 17 percent of the number of permits issued last year.

Clayton County, coming to the end of its fiscal year, has issued less than half of the number permits as last year.

In his neighborhood, Davidson said most of the people buying houses are professionals and they come from other parts of the Atlanta metro area.

"Much like myself they wanted a quiet subdivision away from everything," Davidson said.

As an agent for home builder GT Communities and as a 3-year resident of Rex, Rita Stevenson says that community is definitely growing.

"I have noticed the traffic volume," Stevenson said. "I've noticed the difference in three years."

New subdivisions are springing up along Lake Harbin Road, Stevenson said.

In Henry County the Locust Grove area is growing fast, said Tim Young, the city's director of community development.

Two months into the year, the city has already issued 40 percent of the number of single family residential building permits it gave out in 2004. City officials predict the number to top off at 300 by the end of the year.

Young said he could see Locust Grove coming close to McDonough's present size very fast.

"McDonough was very similar to Locust Grove, and it got very large overnight," he said.

Meanwhile in land-strapped Clayton County, Lovejoy is the burgeoning municipality as the amount of undeveloped property continues to shrink in the 146 square mile county.

Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy said he believes the city will be in the county's top three for population by the next U.S. Census.

Lovejoy and the panhandle region on Clayton County's south side are likely to be a stopping point for growth.

But Henry County looks to continue its development for many years to come with all of its undeveloped property, said Steve Schafer, the county's director of development plan review.

The potential is far greater in Henry County than Clayton County, he said, adding Henry County could have a larger population than Clayton County one day.