Columbia County administrators have decided that the Grovetown area can be zoned for apartments. (WRDW-TV / Oct. 5, 2011)
News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011
GROVETOWN, Ga. -- For the first time in years, leaders in one of the area's biggest counties are giving the thumbs up for a new apartment complex. It's a sign of the times, but it's also a sign of something else.
Commissioners say one part of Columbia County is growing -- and growing fast.
After years of not allowing apartments, Columbia County is saying yes to a new complex near Grovetown.
The newly rezoned land is on CDP Industrial Boulevard, off Wrightsboro Road and near Jimmy Dyess Parkway. Commissioners say it's a great location for a growing part of the county.
Matthew Queen moved to the Grovetown area three years ago and had a hard time finding a good apartment.
"There weren't too many options for me; I had to go all the way to Washington Road to find something that was reasonably priced," Queen said.
But now, there may be new options. Commissioners voted Tuesday to rezone 4.5 acres for apartments.
"We just thought after looking at it a lot -- we discussed it a great deal -- that this was probably the kind of development that we needed," said Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross.
It's also in a busy location in a growing part of town.
"We decided it just was a good thing for the county and these units are needed. A growing county certainly needs a certain amount of apartments," Cross said.
Queen said it would be easier for prospective residents if apartments were in the area.
"Especially with the military community that you have, you have people coming in and out," he said. "They might not need a full house or they may not need to buy something right now ... they just need something for the time being."
It's the first set of apartments approved since a series of changes to county ordinances.
"We decided to revamp our apartment ordinance and we put a moratorium on apartments that lasted about a year," Cross said.
In the past, studies have shown crime is an issue with apartments. Sheriff Clay Whittle doesn't support or recommend adding any apartments to the county.
"We think about it very much. The sheriff is right and he's already stated that he'll probably need some more personnel in that area once this is completed," Cross said.
Paired with some additional land he already owns, the developer plans to build a complex similar to one in Augusta with about 165 units in a gated community with security.
"I think it would be a great idea. I think having a few more apartments would meet more of the needs of the people," Queen said.
On top of the moratorium, in the last few years commissioners have also changed ordinances allowing only 50 rezoned apartments per year. Then, after a controversial development at Marshall Square, they also changed the limit from 14 per acre to 10 per acre.
Another area that might see apartments is the Riverwood area off Washington Road in Evans. It's been approved, but no plans are currently in the works.