Traffic and taxes were discussed by Commissioners about REZ-2013-09 Moody Family Housing on Val Del Road, but none of them thought those topics important enough to make them conditions, and they didn’t even discuss use of local contractors or sinkholes like the one in the Phase II site, or the missing geotechnical study mentioned in the USAF Draft Environmental Assessment whose comment period wasn’t even ended when they voted at the 13 August 2013 Lowndes County Commission Regular Session.
As he had at the previous morning’s Work Session, Commissioner John Page wanted to know if that traffic study was going to be required before the development could start. Planning Commissioner Tommy Willis had also asked about that back in July. This time Page didn’t ask about GA 122 or anywhere other than “Val Del and that area”.
Answer from County Engineer Mike Fletcher:
Whenever construction plans are submitted, we are going to require a traffic study to be done on Val Del Road. Yes sir. This will be required at the time of construction plans. We have made that clear to the developer from the start.
What county staff actually sent developer lawyers Tom Kurrie and Bill Holland 29 July 2103:
b) Additionally, although not a proposed condition, it should be noted on this request that a future traffic study will be required. Acceleration lanes/Deceleration lanes and/or a dedicated left turn lane may be required.
There’s nothing in there about “at the time of construction plans” in the county’s response to my open records request about REZ-2013-09. Where’s the documentation about this time frame?
Page wanted further clarification:
And the actual development will be contingent upon whether Val Del Road and any of the other connectors have the ability to take the traffic load. Is that right?Answer:
That’s correct. Yes sir, there may be improvements that are needed such as accel/decel lanes, dedicated left turn lane. We have talked to them about that as well.
Those two items are in the above-quoted email to the developers’ lawyers. But of course traffic calming measures were in the thirteen specific conditions approved by the Commission for the Nelson Hill subdivision right up Val Del Road, and those never seem to have happened.
Mr. Fletcher, if improvements are needed, relative to a traffic study, who funds those improvements?
The developer would have to fund those.
Remember that if a change order for Val Del Road turns up on a Commission agenda, or if Val Del Road is on the SPLOST VII list, especially since I know of no documentation of that requirement on the developer other than what Mike Fletcher said. Remember, widening Val Del Road, including turn lanes, was on the T-SPLOST list for $3 million: RC11-000101: Val Del Road Additional Lane Width and Turning Lanes. And it’s my impression that the projects the county listed for T-SPLOST were mostly from the county’s general road wishlist, so don’t be surprised if many of them turn up on the county’s SPLOST VII list.
Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to verify that this perhaps follows under the property tax exempt criteria, as in the previous base housing that began before, or not?
Somebody, maybe Mike Fletcher, since Commissioner Marshall suddenly looked in his direction, answered:
Someone else chimed in, barely audibly, as if from the audience:
That’s correct, it does not.
Commissioner Raines wanted confirmation:
So this is a taxable property, this is not tax exempt.
Once again a Commissioner asked the Chairman, and got an answer from somebody else, maybe from somebody in the audience. This time the answer was barely audible, but somebody, apparently lawyer for developer Balfour Beatty Communities Scott Rafshoon, can be seen nodding in the second row of the audience.
Why didn’t the County’s Finance Director answer that question? Don’t county finance staff know the answer? Why is the Commission accepting tax advice from a developer? If the Commission is going to accept an answer from a developer, why didn’t they at least have him take the podium and state his name?
Here’s the video:
Traffic study? –John Page; Who pays? Richard Raines; Tax exemption –Demarcus Marshall
Regular Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 13 August 2013.