Even the Planning Commissioners weren’t told what company “Project Max” is, because the Development Authority is still bidding the location as one of two being considered by the company. See also the agenda the previous update. Planning Commissioners did have quite a few questions about expansion, appropriate zoning, any potential pollution or contamination, etc. Naturally, the Planning Commission recommended approval, so the actual decision will be before the County Commission next Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, here are links to the LAKE videos of the Planning Commission, with a few notes, followed by a video playlist.
- Call to Order, Invocation, Pledge
REZ-2016-01 – Staff Presentation of case
Davenport said it came from the “Industrial Authority, excuse me, Development Authority” and was advertised in the newspaper December 27th. It’s for an unnamed manufacturer of containers with very specific needs and a large footprint. The Health Dept. may have an opinion, but since they usual comment on septic tanks and this operation would use county water and sewer, maybe no opinion. Several commissioners had questions about details, mostly about the location and amount of M2 zoning related to the future development map of the Comprehensive Plan.
REZ-2016-01 In favor –Andrea Grover, VLCIA
Video. She said it would bring 200 high-paying (10% above average) jobs, would be clean, would reduce emissions. It would be part of VLCIA’s inland port project, and the company needs access to rail, I-75, and a fourlane highway to move their product. There’s only one other site being considered, and it’s in Florida. When asked, she didn’t know how many entry level jobs, but somewhere between 15% and 16%.
REZ-2016-01 – Speaking in Favor –Jeff Lovell, Dev. Authority engineer
He said he was impressed that the company did its own air quality tests. He said the company also needs high pressure natural gas, which is available there. Also bearing pressure of the soil, for their 11-acre building site. He said he knows what the company is but can’t tell. He likened it to PCA, which takes paper and processes it, but unlike PCA it’s not a paper mill. The Development Authority would acquire the land. 700 cubic feet of water per operation hour: do they recycle that? Yes. Most of their actual wastewater discharge is from their employees, not their industrial process.
REZ-2016-01 – More speaking in favor –Tom Call, Chair, Dev. Authority
Video. Claiming to represent everyone, he said it would be a very clean company that would quickly become local #1 corporate citizen.
Commissioner Ted Raker said it would be a whole lot easier to make these kinds of decisions if the Planning Commission wasn’t being asked to just “trust us”. He said even if the Commissioners had to sign confidentiality agreements, the whole process would run a lot smoother.
Call said the project had been recommended by the state, and there were a lot of balls in the air. He did clarify that phase 2 would be an exact duplicate of phase 1, simply doubling capacity. He didn’t know the timeline; anything from very quickly to a couple of years. Then there’s the supply yard, which is above and beyond the job numbers Andrea Schruijer mentioned.
Commissioner Celine Gladwin wanted to know why the special meeting. Call said because “we were eliminated”, but coming up with a new site got us back into the running, along with the Florida site. He mentioned air quality several times as the reason the original site was eliminated. The company was going to decide in December, but now by January 15th. They say they have a strict timeline for delivering their product. Schruijer recapped some of what she already said, and added that the state of Georgia was assisting with the competition.
REZ-2016-01 -Citizen Questions – Gretchen Quarterman
Video. Chairman asked for anyone who wanted to speak against. Gretchen Quarterman said she didn’t want to speak against, rather to ask some questions. She noted she hoped it was a solar manufacturer. And her question was how does this zoning fit into the zoning plan. Is it spot zoning? What is appropriate in that area which is currently all pine trees? What about runoff? How much, and where would it go?
REZ-2016-01 – Discussion and Vote
Video. Commissioners wanted to be sure zoning would revert back if the deal fell through.
Celine Gladwin responded to Gretchen’s question by noting that about 200 acres to the north of the subject property is already M2, so maybe it’s not spot zoning, rather just increasing existing M2.
Commissioner Raker reiterated that he didn’t have a problem with the project, rather with the process. He’d like to at least have the GLPC Chairman included in meetings with such companies.
Commissioner Brad Folsom recommended approval with two conditions, that the use be as stated, and that the M-2 zoning would only apply upon acquisition of the property by the Development Authority (there was more detail in the actual motion). Commissioner Wildes seconded. Motion carried 7 to 0.
Here’s a video playlist:
Videos: Heavy Manufacturing politics
Special Called Meeting, Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC Special),
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 5 January 2016.