Controversial, lower-income housing open for business in Martinez

Magnolia Trace (WRDW-TV)

Magnolia Trace (WRDW-TV)

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, March 14, 2013

MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW) -- A low-income neighborhood is up and running after causing a lot of controversy for the past couple of years.

The Magnolia Trace neighborhood is at full capacity with 50 tenants.

Some neighbors are welcoming the new tenants, while others are thinking about packing their bags.

Dawn Poole's home backs up to the new complex, but that doesn't bother her.

"You can't blame them, not with today's economy. All the cutbacks. Every little bit helps, and to be honest, if I can terminate my lease and move over there I would," she said.

But others aren't as excited about the new neighbors.

Cheryl Stewart has lived in the neighborhood beside Magnolia Trace for 33 years.

"They're so close together, and it's just disrupted everything in the neighborhood," Stewart said.

The low-income neighborhood in Martinez has been the center of controversy since plans to build the 50 new homes were approved by Columbia County commissioners. Hundreds gathered to protest the decision back in 2011, but the project was eventually approved. Fifty homes were built, and those homes are now full of tenants.

Shey Justice, the leasing coordinator for Magnolia Trace, says there is a waiting list already for the property.

"We had so much interest in the property, and we were working with people as quickly as we could and we were actually able to get 100 percent occupied by the end of February," she said.

Now that the houses are filled and the project has come to fruition, some neighbors are changing their tune, saying the new homes aren't so bad.

"They're better than a lot of homes that are already built over here," Poole said.

"They all have open floor plans, energy-efficient appliances, we have ceiling fans, we have washer/dryer hookups, and then as of course, as we mentioned, the lawn maintenance," Justice said.

But others are still skeptical.

"I'm just waiting to see what happens, how it progresses with the people that move in six months, five years down the road, who's going to be moving in with them," Stewart said.

The property managers say they have at least a 15-year commitment to Magnolia Trace, so they have a vested interest in keeping the property nice.

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