By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Board of Commissioners voted to delay action on the plans of one developer to build a 128-home subdivision on nine holes of the Lake Spivey Golf Course.
When the motion was made Thursday night by Commissioner Michael Edmondson to approve the preliminary plat design for the subdivision, it got mixed reviews. BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell and Edmondson voted in favor of it. Commissioner Virginia Gray voted against it, and commissioners Wole Ralph and Sonna Singleton abstained.
Edmondson then moved to hold the matter until the April 24 zoning meeting, and the motion was approved unanimously.
Bell said he is "comfortable" holding the matter based on the concerns of the BOC. "There has been a lot of misinformation," he said. "We need to stay on top of the quality of the housing to make sure we don't end up with matchboxes," Bell continued. "This time will give us an opportunity to do so."
The delay came after concerns were raised over the quality of the proposed product, safety issues concerning entryways into the subdivision, and a contingency clause in the contract between golf course owner Joe Hamilton and developer group, Spivey Club LLC.
In February of last year, the BOC approved the preliminary plat for a conservation easement design presented by Spivey Club LLC. In the plan, 40 acres of the golf course would be set aside for residential development and the remaining 18 holes would be preserved as a perpetual green belt.
According to Hamilton, and Spivey Club LLC Project Manager Jay Byce, the contract guarantees the developer the right to purchase and develop all 27 holes of the Lake Spivey Golf Course. That contingency clause was included, in case the developers' original plan was denied.
"There is something that doesn't feel right about this to me," said Commissioner Ralph. He said his main concern is preserving the golf course, but felt uncomfortable being forced into a decision by a contract stipulation. "I want to see the contract," said Ralph.
While homes in the proposed subdivision are planned as a combination of stone, brick, and stucco, Commissioner Gray noted the plans include an option of using a HardiePlank. Gray expressed concern that the fiber-concrete siding would look too much like vinyl siding, which is prohibited by county zoning ordinances.
"They don't want a whole bunch of HardiePlank houses in Lake Spivey," said Gray. "If we don't hold their feet to the fire with specific plans, that is what we will get."
Lawyers representing the county, developers, the golf course, and residents against the development, argued opposing viewpoints, none of which was strong enough to sway the BOC.
"We have a vested right in the approval which has already occurred," said David Flint, an attorney representing Spivey Club LLC. "To deny that after the money and resources we have already expended ... it would be unconstitutional."
Simon Bloom, attorney for three Lake Spivey residents opposing the development, argued that the golf course is zoned for agriculture, and thus can only support one home per acre of land.
"You cannot get vested rights based on erroneous permits," said Bloom. "The question for the commission isn't based on popular vote, its based on what's in the ordinance.
"It doesn't matter if you call it a bread maker or a toaster oven," said Bloom, "the property is still agricultural. We want to deny this ordinance."
Members of various Lake Spivey-area home owners organizations, all wearing blue polo shirts and holding green posters with the words, "Save 18 holes of golf forever," filled the audience.
Raymond Baggarly, a board member of Lake Spivey Community, Inc., was disappointed the BOC did not move forward on approving the plan.
"It would be a good option for some of us who are looking to down-size and still live in a golf course community," said Baggarly. "The developers have bent over backwards to make this a good development, and that's why I'm for it."
"Our plans have not changed from the February approval of last year," said Spivey Project Manager Byce, who also expressed disappointment. "This is our eighth public meeting to discuss this project. What we're asking the county to do is approve something that is already approved."
Hazel Steele, a resident of the North Shore subdivision, said she is against the development because of the state of the local housing market.
"There are no homes selling right now," said Steele. "If they don't find a way to sell those houses, we will just be looking at an eyesore."
"There is something about this that stinks," said Bill Ihringer, one of the three residents suing the county to stop the development. "It's not a development ... it's a bailout."