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Columbia County Commission seeks halt to Magnolia Trace

Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011 9:42 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 12:25 AM
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Columbia County commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to hire outside legal counsel to investigate any legal avenue officials might take to “interrupt” construction of the Magnolia Trace development in Martinez.

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Jim Blaylock/Staff
Tom Sauls was one of dozens of Columbia County residents who spoke out against the Magnolia Trace housing development at Tuesday’s Columbia County Commission meeting.

The motion came following nearly two hours of questions, accusations, insults and jeers from dozens of nearby residents angered that the commission endorsed the “low-income” housing project on Old Ferry Road.

Jennifer McCray, a resident of Petersburg Station, which abuts the Magnolia Trace property, accused commissioners of using her community as “guinea pigs” in their “experiment” with “discounted rental property.”

“If this were poker, I would have to call your bluff,” McCray said to commission Chairman Ron Cross when he said the county could not have stopped it.

Though the commission voted Tuesday to try to stop it, and to inform Magnolia Trace developer Affordable Equity Partners and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs of residents’ concerns, officials said they had to endorse the project or face legal ramifications.

Trey Allen, the commissioner for District 2, which includes Magnolia Trace, said officials were in a no-win situation.

When other Georgia cities tried to halt such developments in the past because of popular dislike, Allen said they were sued and fined by the federal government.

If they had not endorsed it, Allen continued, they again might have faced a federal lawsuit.

Allen said officials couldn’t even inform surrounding neighborhoods of the project without facing a federal discrimination lawsuit.

Missouri-based Affordable Equity Partners arranged with the Department of Community Affairs to receive tax credits to construct the “affordable housing” project, said county attorney Doug Batchelor.

The commission supported that effort with a resolution passed in June 2010.

Though rent vouchers might be available, Batchelor said only a small percentage of renters of homes owned by Affordable Equity Partners in Georgia use such vouchers.

Nearby residents have said Magnolia Trace will lead to an increase in crime, a decrease in property values and further burden an already overtaxed school system.

Commissioners defended the 15-acre development, which will feature 50 single-family homes, to the irate neighbors of Magnolia Trace.

Cross even repeated earlier comments that he believes the project is good for the area, though he voted to approve the motion to seek a legal means stop it.

In recent days, commissioners have noted that homes in the project will have a value of up to $190,000. They also have said that anyone wishing to rent a Magnolia Trace home must first pass checks on employment, credit and criminal histories.

However, during the meeting, Allen mentioned that the Department of Community Affairs only “suggests” that the developer perform such checks. They’re not a requirement.

Last week, Columbia County Sheriff Clay Whittle said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the presence of Magnolia Trace won’t contribute to a hike in the crime rate for that area, but that he intends to keep a “close eye” on it.

Schools Superintendent Charles Nagle said Monday that such in-fill developments as Magnolia Trace can burden the school system.

Commissioners said that the school board was notified when a rezoning request was issued for that property. That request was made in 1979, when the county only had two high schools.

County Administrator Scott Johnson said his staff’s “first order of business” today will be to find an attorney who can fulfill the requirements of the commission’s motion.

McCray was named as a point of contact to inform her neighbors of the county’s progress.

Comments (138) Add comment
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Dixieman
16595
Points
Dixieman 12/06/11 - 09:58 pm
0
0
Any commissioner who votes

Any commissioner who votes for this should be required to move in there with his kids for a minimum of 2 years. Time politicians were required to start eating their own cooking.

iwaspregnantin1993
27
Points
iwaspregnantin1993 12/06/11 - 10:24 pm
0
0
So this goes back to 1979??

So this goes back to 1979?? I would hope like heck that there is someone in our county overseeing the zoning plans, both past and present, to be certain that property is set up to be utilized for the betterment of our community. This reminds me of someone making a will in 1979, then failing to keep it current, and when the will gets probated the "good" son, who is now a thug, gets all of the booty. I'm just sayin'........

Frankie-B
48
Points
Frankie-B 12/07/11 - 12:36 am
0
0
Folks, people of lessor means

Folks, people of lessor means need homes, too, or did you miss George Bailey's point about the Building & Loan. It's your attitudes which determine if this will be a Pottersville. Judging from these attitudes in this article, Joseph and Mary would be looking for a manger in Martinez...

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 12/07/11 - 01:28 am
0
0
Ridiculous to assert that

Ridiculous to assert that these individuals will be criminals, low lifes, thugs, etc.

Talk about discrimination - these people are worse or as bad as the homeowners association kicking out the disabled vetran.

As for taxing the school system, apartment complexes are far worse.

Brad Owens
4859
Points
Brad Owens 12/07/11 - 03:44 am
0
0
So now it is my (working tax

So now it is my (working tax paying citizen) job as good working slave to the system to support non-producing folks and put them in houses valued well beyond my own that I receive no support in paying for?

So it is OK to take MY money I EARNED through my education, experience, sacrifice and hard work to give it to greedy developers so "less fortunate" people can live well beyond their means?

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO AMERICA?

I understand helping those in NEED with medical and food assitance, but a $190,000.00 house on OUR backs? REALLY? That is OK?

WOW, all I can say is WOW.

Brad

wildman
1195
Points
wildman 12/07/11 - 04:32 am
0
0
Brad, it's the new American

Brad, it's the new American way. Fifty one percent of this country gets a check from a government agency and does nothing to earn it. At this rate this country is sure to fall at some time in the future. We have got to stop paying people to sit on the porch talking on an iphone or on the couch watching a flat screen tv that we paid for. I would like to leave this place knowing my childern and grandchildern will enjoy the great country as I did. I have no confidence the commission will take any action, this was a way to satisfy everybody at the meeting.

Just My Opinion
6093
Points
Just My Opinion 12/07/11 - 04:52 am
0
0
Well, you're forgetting one

Well, you're forgetting one thing..the house maybe be worth $190,000 when it's sitting there unoccupied, along with all the other $190,000 homes, but as soon as the people start moving into them, the value of all those homes plummet! Sadly, this makes the value of the surrounding homes/neighborhoods go down as well...in theory, anyway.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/07/11 - 05:29 am
0
0
I think folks are jumping the

I think folks are jumping the gun about the folks that will be renting these homes.
Brad, the people will be screened and must have stable income, so they are not non-producing folks.
I agree with asitis (as I most often do), these people are acting worse than the ones that kicked the veteran out of Knob Hill. I wish the Veteran could get one of these homes.

juantez
254
Points
juantez 12/07/11 - 05:46 am
0
0
wildman::: Fifty one percent
Unpublished

wildman::: Fifty one percent of this country gets a check from a government agency and does nothing to earn it..

Where did you get your stats?

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 12/07/11 - 05:59 am
0
0
Unfortunately, this is a

Unfortunately, this is a situation where there is no easy answer. On the one hand, Columbia County is growing and it is inevitable that low-income/Section 8 housing will come into play. On the other hand, the citizens who have been productive and raised the tax-base and quality of life in the county to make it an attractive place to live deserve to benefit from the fruits of their labors (to live in a crime-free neighborhood and retain their property values, etc.). What can be done when the Federal government won't let a community determine its own affairs? I would love to believe that a low-income subdivision would be populated only by police officers, EMTs, firefighters and teachers, but we all know Federal government subsidized housing (or Fed. subsidized anything, for that matter) carries the stipulations of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, etc. I don't want to speculate as to who may move into a subdivision like this, but I would say the issue of a community's self-determination is one that I could envision going to the state or U.S. Supreme Court.

draksig
167
Points
draksig 12/07/11 - 06:01 am
0
0
The houses will be rented

The houses will be rented out, not given away. Only some will be rented to low income families and even then I don't read anywhere where this is section 8 housing, just vouchers.

They could always respond to the concerns of the people by putting in a police or sheriff sub-station in the area. Have the area well lit at night and help form a neighborhood watch program, a good idea in any area.

justputtin
1507
Points
justputtin 12/07/11 - 06:19 am
0
0
Jumping to conclusions? Give

Jumping to conclusions? Give me a break! These " conclusions" are with merit given the history of crime and everything else associated with bringing a development like this in the middle of an old, established neighborhood. Has anyone mentioned that Richmond county successfully turned this development down first? I am guardedly optimistic that the commission "listened" to the people last night instead of " knowing what's best for us" when they endorsed this project. I love the comment where " we didn't approve it, we endorsed it". Well, that makes all the difference in the world! This whole thing Is disgusting. Austin Rhodes was right last night. Sherriff Whittle does an incredible job for us, he is going to have his hands full with what is happening to this county.

Concerned in CC
5
Points
Concerned in CC 12/07/11 - 06:35 am
0
0
Ron Cross thinks it is a good

Ron Cross thinks it is a good idea for a developer outside the state to buy up whatever land they want for the sole purpose of getting tax-credits by ensuring low-income renters move in. Ron "endorsed" it. He still thinks it's a good idea after hearing from his constituents who are angry. www.aepartners.com "AEP A Worthwhile Investment". A worthwhile investment for AEP and their investors, NOT for this community. Folks, there is nothing to prevent AEP or similar company from buying up other properties here. Our "leaders" sat mute and endorsed this.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 12/07/11 - 06:52 am
0
0
Perhaps they should change it
Unpublished

Perhaps they should change it to REQUIRE the background checks... and ad a minimum age requirement... use it as a retirement type community for seniors on a fixed income.

proud2bamerican
441
Points
proud2bamerican 12/07/11 - 07:17 am
0
0
First of all if Ron Cross

First of all if Ron Cross ever thought this idea was even close to being a "good idea" it would have been in the newspaper, announced in our water bills, on the radio, etc. Secondly, I have sacrificed and worked VERY hard so that my children can live in the best school district available in the area. Like so many others have stated, now people will be moving into nicer homes, enjoying the benefits of our district and getting vouchers to help pay for it!!! This is as crazy as it gets, but be assured that this is not the only area where our broke government is subsidizing more people into stable communities that have been built up by hard working, involved people.

LouP
13
Points
LouP 12/07/11 - 07:23 am
0
0
As I stated last night at the

As I stated last night at the meeting, as a resident of Springlakes people would assume that I would have no interest in this controversy. They would be wrong. As a citizen of this county I am greatly concerned. Springlakes has felt the sting of poor Commission decisions and as such we sympathize with the our fellow citizens. But the issue is even greater than that. When I decided to go to the meeting I had no intention of commenting. After witnessing Ron Cross's petulant, arrogant display I was compelled to speak. Mr Cross may think that this issue is of interest and concern to only a small insignificant (read not politically connected or financially influential) neighborhood but he is dead wrong. The Commission's inability to discern what is in the best interest of Columbia County as envisioned by it's citizens bespeaks a total disconnect from their constituents. The dismissve, annoyed attitude exhibited when called on it reveals Cross to be an entrenched, unresponsive politician who bristles when his judgement is called into question. Frankly, it is time for him to go.

proud2bamerican
441
Points
proud2bamerican 12/07/11 - 07:25 am
0
0
On top of it all it is truly

On top of it all it is truly a shame that while our government feels entitled to give our money away to support people just become of their low income, that they will not spend a little more of it to provide financial counseling and accountability to help these people become INdependent! Anyone receiving any type of government subsidy should be accountable for their spending i.e. how much they can spend for a car payment, whether they can 'afford' to pay for monthly cable bills, whether they can 'afford' smart phones that require monthly data charges, etc, etc, etc...it's called a BUDGET. If they can take money they don't earn then they need to be accountable for how they spend it AND learn how to become independent - why do we allow this to continue?

blues550
380
Points
blues550 12/07/11 - 07:28 am
0
0
Last night should be a clear
Unpublished

Last night should be a clear message to all elected people across this once great nation of ours. From the lowest municipal lever to The White House, people are angry - very angry - with your leadership or lack there of. Pay attention.

Little Lamb
48039
Points
Little Lamb 12/07/11 - 07:40 am
0
0
Folks, you cannot fight city

Folks, you cannot fight city hall. And the county commission cannot fight the federales. The federal government has set up this system to subsidize housing. We have to learn to live with it until the quaint notions of individual liberty and personal responsibility return to favor in our government.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 12/07/11 - 07:52 am
0
0
So much for PattyhP's
Unpublished

So much for PattyhP's judgement. Knob Hill was about putting a substandard house in a development. Nothing more until the media and others decided to blow it completely out of proportions.

The people going in to Magnolia Trace can have up to 2 people per bedroom living there and that does not include the people not named on the lease (you might want to check out Cherry Tree Crossing where exactly this happens on a regular basis).

The sins ofl eadership past are catching up with us. Sometime back this was zoned as R-3 which is inappropriate for the neighborhood.

All you have to do is look at the develops around where Old Petersburg begins and then by corner at Pizza Joint Evans.

South Columbia Elementary has become the most impoverished school in Columbia County, according to the school system itself. Lakeside Middle is now Title 1 and Lakeside High School is heading that way. Not too many years ago LHS was among the top schools in the state.

Ask the 2nd best sheriff in the CSRA (love Clay but would have to give the nod to Ronnie for being the best) how he feels about the negative impact this will have on his department.

And don't even start on those of us in El Cordero and Petersbvurg Station. These are 2 very middle class neighborhoods with a diviersity that is off the wall.

Right on
213
Points
Right on 12/07/11 - 07:54 am
0
0
The media is a wonderful

The media is a wonderful thing for some. It makes Austin a champion of egos. He needs to find the facts before he opens his mouth. The Richmond County Commission needs to read what they sign off on before they sign it. The majority of them are formally educated. They signed the parking deck deal. Go figure.
As to Magnolia Trace, if you look at Petersburg Station, over 17% of the homes are owned by non-owner occupants. These are renters. Folks who could be subsidized. If you look at the average sales of homes in Petersburg it runs about $118,000. Magnolia Trace will be built to a tune of at least $160,000. These sales in Petersburg do not take into account the HUD foreclosures and I promise you, there are many of these. If an area has over a certain percentage of renters, the FHA will not insure any loans on the properties in the neighborhood. Do you have any idea what percentage of homes are insured by FHA?The Magnolia Trace will cater to renters who have an income of 60% of the average area income. This will equate to around $40,000/year. I think this is in line with the surrounding neighborhoods. As to the Board of Education, tax dollars support our schools. This development will pay many more tax dollars towards our education system than a tract of land left as wooded agricultural land. This property was offered to the County as a location for a park. Of course it costs money to build a park and maintain it. It also keeps property off the tax digest which means we all will have to pay higher property taxes. Our County Commission signed a resolution. This was just one of many pieces which the developer had to provide to get the tax credits. It was not necessary, just makes the application stronger. They could have done it without the Resolution. Take a look at the Fair Housing Laws. Any changes to the zoning ordinance to discourage subsidized housing would be in direct conflict with the Federal Fair Housing Laws. These laws are about discrimination.
Consider the construction of the vast majority of homes in Petersburg Station. They have masonite siding. Masonite was considered an inferior product and many claims were filed. All you had to do was make an application and you were given some sort of settlement. Do you think the property owners used the money to replace the sidng on their homes. I would say the vast majority used it for other items. Magnolia Trace will have better construction materials. We have childern breaking into houses in Lake Royal. We have neighbors killing each other in Orchard Hill. We have Meth Labs in Riverwood. Wake Up, the train has left the station. I have friends who accept social security because they claim to have a problem(not physical) which keeps them from working. The govt gives free cell phones and minutes to folks. The Train left the station a long time ago. The problem is not with our County Commission, it is with the Federal Govt. Hound on your Congressmen.
If it was built next to my neighborhood I would be unhappy as well. of course, I would look at what is around my neighborhood and know the trends before I bought.
As to me, I was taught to work hard. I will continue to support all the ills of society through my tax dollar contributions and at night I will go home and lock my door. I can not control what happens outside my home but I can control what goes on inside.

Right on
213
Points
Right on 12/07/11 - 07:58 am
0
0
Little Lamb, you hit it dead

Little Lamb, you hit it dead on the head.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 12/07/11 - 07:58 am
0
0
Why not require a minimum

Why not require a minimum acreage per house in the county. I think this has been done in certain some areas of the country. Make it an acre or two and the problem would be solved. That would eliminate a lot of problems and slow growth. I cant find anything wrong with slow growth.

You can't pass laws to the fix the morals of people but a depression and a revival would fix most of the things wrong with this country. I feel pretty sure about the depression unless we get Christian leaders and hopeful about the revival.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 12/07/11 - 08:01 am
0
0
Based on what I have read

Based on what I have read about the meeting last night I would say that some of the residents in attendance acted like children. Insults and nasty signs is no way for an adult to conduct himself on a matter that is as important to them as this one seems to be. They are conducting themselves in a manner that they fear the new residents will. Welcome to the real world, Columbia County. Our federal government, in its wisdom ,will tell you who your neighbors will be.
Good post, Brad.

Riverman1
90837
Points
Riverman1 12/07/11 - 08:02 am
0
0
The guy from the company

The guy from the company brought up past lawsuits and federal involvement. The threat was laid.

Soldout, that minimum acreage requirement gets me too. In some places it's a full 3 acres, down the street, mini lots. What's up with that?

Riverman1
90837
Points
Riverman1 12/07/11 - 08:12 am
0
0
Another interesting issue

Another interesting issue that came up last night is whether it will be 40 or 50 units. But keep in mind, these are 3-4 bedroom homes. You know all the bedrooms will have 19 people each.

Sooby, honestly, it was borderline with the crowd being rude. One guy next to me kept hollering out "you lie" type phrases and that bugged the heck out of me.

However, I can't emphasize enough the effectiveness of Ms. McCray. She was factual, calm, polite yet able to put smirking Ron Cross in his place. She told him, "With all due respect, Mr. Cross, I don't appreciate your sarcasm." That made many laugh out loud.

augusta citizen
9955
Points
augusta citizen 12/07/11 - 08:15 am
0
0
As I understand it, these

As I understand it, these renters will get to live in a $190,000.00 home for very low rent, not comparable even to a lot of 900 sq. ft. apartments in complexes. To remain in the house, their income must not exceed $40,000.00 per year. Well now there's a real incentive to not improve one's lot in life. As a poster mentioned on another thread recently, will everyone who lives in the household have to submit to a criminal background check, or just the one who signs the lease? This is a pig in a poke being peddled to the tax-paying citizens, but hey, what's new?

Little Lamb
48039
Points
Little Lamb 12/07/11 - 08:28 am
0
0
Last week both Trey Allen and

Last week both Trey Allen and Ron Cross were saying that this development was a good thing for the county as a whole. Last night we had this:

Trey Allen, the commissioner for District 2, which includes Magnolia Trace, said officials were in a no-win situation.

Carleton Duvall
6305
Points
Carleton Duvall 12/07/11 - 08:36 am
0
0
RM1, I prefaced my comment

RM1, I prefaced my comment with 'From what I read". Obviously the reporter put the emphasis on the ones that were rude. Since I live in Richmond County I should have kept out of the discussion. As a matter of interest I must tell you about the first public housing that was built in Richmond county in the forties on 15th Street. I forget the name. The porches and steps were built of wood. You guessed it. The first year all of the porches and steps were cut up for firewood. The contractor had to rebuild the porches out of concrete.

Little Lamb
48039
Points
Little Lamb 12/07/11 - 08:37 am
0
0
I would like to try to inject

I would like to try to inject a little common sense regarding the schools issue. Several people are ranting that the people who will next year begin occupying these 50 dwellings are going to ruin the school system by overcrowding it. Well, those same people who are ranting must have overcrowded the school system when they chose to reside in Columbia County!

Any school system in a county that is growing will experience periods of temporary overcrowding, but school systems have means at their disposal to relieve the overcrowding. If all of a sudden South Columbia elementary, Lakeside middle, and Lakeside high get a new influx of students, the school board can re-draw the school zones to take advantage of underutilization at other schools. And then they can start building new schools.

They've handled it before.

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