JONESBORO — Score one for the little guys — and girls.
Residents in south Clayton County got a victory Tuesday when county commissioners heeded their pleas and rejected a zoning request to build houses in an unfinished neighborhood on Fitzgerald Road just south of Jonesboro. The proposed neighborhood would have included 175 “cluster” homes on 74.15 acres of land.
If it had been built as proposed, the average home lot being 0.4 acres. That was just too many houses in a small space for residents in neighboring subdivisions.
“You might as well open up an apartment complex with all of the homes they’re trying to put in there,” said opponent Darrell Mitchell.
The proposed building plan drew large scale opposition from residents. When Commission Chairman Jeff Turner called on opponents to stand so he could see how to gather their comments during the zoning petition hearing, half of the people in the packed commission chambers stood up.
It was a large enough group that he had to limit the number of opponents speaking to commissioners to a handful.
Attorney Crandle Bray argued for the neighborhood on behalf of the developer, Crown Communities Inc., and the builder, Jefferson Homes. Bray, a former commission chairman, said the county commission gave its blessing around 2005 to let a subdivision be built on the property, and work began on the neighborhood.
However, he said it was not finished before the housing market and the economy took a downturn.
“Now we have a completed subdivision but no houses,” said Bray. “As the economy turned you had — well, whatever happened, the builder did not make it and now we are at a point where Crown is trying to go in there and build houses on that property.”
He told commissioners half of the proposed homes would have been 2,300 square feet in size and the other half would have been 2,000 square feet. He also said the property’s 50-foot buffer would have been re-vegetated to minimize some of the impact the planned neighborhood would have had on the surrounding area.
But residents said they are not opposed to the neighborhood being built out. It’s the volume of proposed houses that they had a problem with.
“If I’m sitting on my deck and they build that subdivision the way they proposed, I will be looking at the back of six houses,” said John Albert Peter Early.
One resident, Lorraine Dye, said the lots would be so small and houses so close to each other, that it would create a potential fire hazard for the area. She said Clayton County fire department officials were worried about the proximity of the houses to each other when she asked them about it.
“They were concerned and told me that the houses were going to be so close together that they were going to be five feet from the corner of the house to the property line,” said Dye. “In that case, they would need sprinklers installed in each home.”
Dye added that every other home built in the other neighborhoods on Fitzgerald Road were built on at least one acre lots.
“There are no other clustered homes on Fitzgerald Road,” she said.
However, Alisa Griffin said while there are no clustered home communities on Fitzgerald Road, there are some nearby. But, she said the character of those neighborhoods was not desirable to residents who were raising families in existing neighborhoods on Fitzgerald Road.
Griffin and her family have lived in of those neighborhoods, Tara Beach Estates, since 2002.
“These cluster communities have developed character that has become atrocious to us,” she said. “Historically in these clustered communities, vehicles are parked on the narrow streets because the driveways are too short to accommodate them and, historically, these communities seem to become unsightly in our county.”
So, when the commission sided with the residents and rejected the housing plan, the residents let out loud cheers and applauded their leaders.