Neighbors are upset about the 50-home low-income housing community being built in Martinez. (WRDW-TV / Nov. 29, 2011)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011
MARTINEZ, Ga. -- Neighbors are not giving up the fight to halt a new development in Martinez.
Magnolia Trace, a 50-home subdivision for low-income families, has been approved by commissioners and construction has already started.
The $130,000 rental homes are being built on Old Ferry Road on the edges of the El Dorado and Petersburg Station neighborhoods.
Neighbors are currently working to gather signatures on a petition they plan to take before commissioners on Tuesday but it's a battle they may have already lost.
Rodney Martz, 81, is recruiting neighbors to his cause. He says he and his neighborhood, Petersburg Station, will not go down without a fight.
"There's bound to be hope, because I'm not going to give up," Martz said.
Martz and dozens of others are worried about property values, an increase in crime and a strain on their schools.
"These low-income communities have a reputation, which is not necessarily desirable. The commission needs to lift up the values, not push down the values," Martz explained.
Columbia County commissioners have worked all week to calm fears.
"I think once I can speak to people and they can understand the actual program itself there's not as much fear and panic," said Columbia County District 2 Commissioner Trey Allen.
To rent the homes, tenants must qualify by making less than $40,000 dollars in income, prove steady employment and go through both a credit report and criminal background check.
"You can't just say because the person is making less money than you that they're bad people," Allen said.
Thanks to tax credits from the Georgia Department of Community of Affairs, the developer can offer a reduced rent with housing choice vouchers.
"Our intentions from the very beginning were to build something that was going to better the neighborhood," Allen said.
Neighbors here disagree, but for Martz and his supporters, the fight may already be lost. The deal has been inked.
"My understanding is that this cannot be reversed. The home credits have already been issued, the progress has already begun on the construction. The only person that can stop it is the developer," Allen said.
Martz is disappointed with the commission.
"I expect more from them that what we've gotten," he said.
Allen is also on The Georgia Department of Community Affairs board of representatives. He was appointed in March and that was after this development had been approved.
He says -- if and a very big if -- the development becomes a nuisance, he promises to make sure the area's safety and security is not jeopardized.
Many neighbors complain that they were never made aware of the plans for the development, but they didn't have to be, according to the county. The property was already zoned for this kind of use. It wasn't until construction started a few weeks ago that neighbors began asking questions.