The Jackson County Board of Commissioners struck down a controversial rezoning proposal at a packed public hearing Monday night. The vote was unanimous. The proposal would have allowed a warehouse facility to be built on Josh Pirkle Road in an area zoned residential.Why It’s Newsworthy: Prior to the vote, community members who opposed the rezoning application said that the Commissioner’s decision would be historic. After the vote, they left convinced the commissioners had the neighborhood’s best interests in mind.
There were five items on the meeting’s agenda dealing with Josh Pirkle Road brought forward by the Pirkle family and Adair Realty, Inc., a company that manages industrial property in the metro-Atlanta area. All of them were trying to change the future land use characterization from “residential” to “industrial.”
Proponents and opponents of the proposed zoning change were each given 50 minutes to speak. The applicant and those in favor of the rezoning went first.
The change would have allowed Adair to build a group of warehouses on the property. Plans filed before the meeting showed four buildings, but Jim Eyre, the representative speaking on behalf of Adair Realty at the meeting, surprised the room by saying the company was going to abandon plans for one of the buildings closest to surrounding neighborhoods.
Steve Pirkle, representing his family’s estate, told the Board of Commissioners that the decision to put the land up for sale was not an easy one, but the failing health of family members demanded such action.
“If you were going to take care of your mother and your family,” he said, “What would you do?”
Opponents of the proposition argued that they too were trying to do what was best for their families by protecting them from increased tractor-trailer traffic, pollution and noise. The difference, from their point of view, was the number of people who would be affected by this decision.
“Mr. Pirkle talked about protecting his family. We have 400 families trying to do the same thing,” said a man opposed to the rezoning.
Other opponents displayed hand-made diagrams and raised questions about their children’s safety, while calling on the Board of Commissioners to vote in a way that, in their minds, would support the community.
“Put on a white hat tonight and stand with logic, the comprehensive plan, and your neighbors,” one woman implored.
The crowd erupted in applause after her short, impassioned speech.
After opponents of the Josh Pirkle Road application voiced their concerns, Eyre, speaking on behalf of the realty company, approached the podium. His short rebuttal incited scoffs and murmurs from the audience before sending the crowd into audible shock when he asked commissioners for a 30-day extension before taking a vote on the proposal.
Ralph Richardson, the commissioner for District 3, lead motions to deny that extension and all five of the proposals up for consideration. The resounding no vote led to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Richardson said after the meeting that he believed there were other parts of Jackson County available for industrial development, and it didn’t have to be here.
After the meeting, neighbors who opposed the change thanked the Board of Commissioners on their Facebook page, “Citizens for a Better Jackson County, LLC.”
Casey Rose is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.