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 / Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
MARTINEZ, Ga. -- Construction is underway on Magnolia Trace, a 50-home, low-income rental neighborhood in Martinez.
Neighbors have been flooding the commission office with calls, complaining about the project. But so far, commissioners are standing behind the new neighborhood.
It's being built in Rodney Martz's backyard.
"The population of a rental community is rotating constantly and it's just not a good idea for this type of community," explained Martz, who's lived here for the last 28 years.
"If this gets built ... we're no longer a middle-class neighborhood and that's just not what we invested our money in," added neighbor Molly Bowman.
Dozens of neighbors living in nearby Petersburg Station are taking their concerns to commissioners.
"Everybody that I've talked to is concerned. Everybody wants to see this stop," Bowman said.
Columbia County Commissioner Trey Allen doesn't agree.
"I just don't think there's any cause to panic that it's going to be a bad development," he said.
According to documents, the homes will have federal and state tax credits built in for the developer. The income restrictions include a background check and will target families making between $25,000 and $40,000 dollars a year.
"You're talking about people making under $40,000 a year. There's a lot of people making under $40,000 dollars right now. Policemen, teachers, you're talking about good people that are looking for a way to live in the county that most of them work in," Allen said.
But some neighbors are worried about an increase in crime and a decrease in their property values.
"We know that low-income neighborhoods come with increased crime ... the police will be here on a regular basis, our property values are going down, our children are not safe to play," Bowman said.
"It's not a good idea for Petersburg Station or Martinez," added Martz.
"They can just be your average, hard working, middle class, blue collar worker," Allen said.
Like it or not, for now Magnolia Trace is on the way.
Commissioners say the tax credit for the housing is not the same as Section 8, or the state's Housing Choice Voucher Program but they admit, vouchers may apply for Magnolia Trace.
Some of those homeowners are scheduled to speak at the commission meeting Dec. 6.
Some neighbors expressed concern that they were not notified about the project, but Commissioner Allen says the land was already zoned for residential use and no notices had to be given.
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