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Bulloch County, Ga., Officials Rezone Huge Tract for Building Industrial Warehouses

Tue April 11, 2023 - Southeast Edition
Statesboro Herald

It appears that millions of square footage of warehouse capacity and light industrial space will be made available to manufacturers after a recent zoning of properties in Bulloch County, Ga., near Interstate 16, the major thoroughfare between Atlanta and the Port of Savannah.

The Hyundai-centered boom in industrial development in east-central Georgia landed before the Bulloch County commissioners for decisions on multiple proposals the first week in April. The most notable result of those hearings was the board unanimously approved, with some added conditions, rezoning requests to allow three million sq. ft. of industrial warehousing to be built on roughly 360 acres along the south side of Rocky Road, south of Statesboro.

Rocky Road is the more southern of the two access roads from U.S. Highway 301 to Bruce Yawn Commerce Park, the Development Authority of Bulloch County's industrial site at the I-16 interchange.

Joon Georgia Inc., a unit of auto body parts manufacturer Ajin USA, has committed to build a factory on the Rocky Road side of the industrial park, and construction of Aspen Aerogels' aerogel-insulation plant is well under construction on the side of the park nearer the interstate highway, according to the Statesboro Herald.

The newspaper reported April 6 that the proposed developer of the new warehouses is Northpoint Development, based in Savannah and in Charleston, S.C. But the project came to the Bulloch County commissioners as six separate requests — from different local owners of a half-dozen contiguous parcels — to rezone their land from agricultural to light industrial.

Together, the properties added up to a 359.6-acre tract, where Northpoint plans to build 10 warehouses totaling 3.1 million sq. ft., as well as connecting driveways and parking areas for trucks and employees.

By comparison, the Statesboro Walmart Distribution Center measures a little over two million sq. ft. in size.

Former Farmland to See Careful Development

One of the property owners, Garrett Nevil, was Bulloch County Board of Commissioners chair for 12 years until 2016. He spoke to the current board when the hearing for his rezoning request was held during its April 4 meeting.

Nevil explained that years ago, the county and the city of Statesboro began to prepare the industrial park site at the interchange by investing millions of dollars to clear the land and extend city and water sewer service to the area. The state, he noted, also put money into the road improvements.

"We know what is being proposed for the next phase of construction down there, and we find it to be acceptable and environmentally friendly to our community," he said. "We know this site will be developed sooner or later, and it always counted to me from the beginning as to what goes there. We are satisfied with the proposal that has been made."

Some of the commerce park's neighbors, though, worried about the impact of the industrial complex's expansion, and submitted a list of 10 conditions they suggested the county put on the rezoning.

One of these would have restricted the property to warehouse use, prohibiting assembly or manufacturing work on the site. Other conditions included restrictions on vehicles using Union Church Road and a requirement for a 100-ft. buffer planted along that side of the warehouse tract.

The county staff had already included a requirement for a 25-ft. buffer, which was sent forward with other staff conditions on the Planning and Zoning Board's recommendation for approval of the zoning change requests. That board had voted 3-2 to recommend approval.

Jim Collins, from the Savannah engineering firm Thomas & Hutton, the company working on the project for Northpoint Development, told the Herald that trucks and other vehicles going to and from the park's warehouses will only use Rocky Road for access. He added the company did not want access to the business park property from Union Church Road, except for an access road for fire trucks and ambulances at Kelly Pond Road and Union Church, which also was recommended by county staff.

Collins also noted that the county's buffer requirement was for "95 percent opacity," meaning little of the warehouse site would be seen from outside its perimeter, and that evergreen trees were recommended.

The Bulloch County commissioners, before their vote on Nevil's part of the property, increased the buffer requirement to 50 ft. as a compromise and carried the requirement over to the other five parcels. In addition, they added a condition prohibiting use of Union Church Road to access or exit the warehouse tract, except for emergency vehicles.

A traffic study, noted in the county's report, predicted that the warehouses and nearby industrial development will generate 5,552 vehicle trips per day.

Since the commissioners last year approved zoning changes to allow more than one million sq. ft. of warehousing, planned by a different development company on the other side of I-16, more than four million sq. ft. of industrial storage space is now slated for construction around the interchange.

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