CRISP CO., GA (WALB) - The proposed re-zoning of a South Georgia property to industrial has some people concerned and upset.
The property in question is at 158 South Coney Road in Crisp County.
It is directly adjacent to Georgia Veterans State Park and, according to Google Maps, it sits less than a mile from Gum Creek and a little over a mile from Lake Blackshear.
Commodity Distribution Systems, LLC, represented by John Basnar, Jr., owns the property.
In a letter to the Crisp County Board of Commissioners, Basnar wrote that he wants them to re-zone the property from single family residential to industrial. The county hosted a public hearing in regards to the proposal.
Basnar told the commission he wants the property to be used to store railroad cars and railroad lines, yards and stations.
The situation has citizens, including Joel Owens, Jerry Carney and Gary Huffman, concerned that future generations could see a less-environmentally sound Crisp County, should the re-zoning be approved.
"I feel like we have a responsibility as citizens to protect this area," Owens explained.
"I cannot fathom why our commissioners would even entertain this idea, let alone, seem to appear to want to approve it almost immediately," said Carney.
"Approval of a proposed industrial zone in the use of property amidst this single-family neighborhood is a classic case of spot zoning, which under our zoning laws in the state of Georgia, is illegal zoning," said attorney Frank Jenkins, who represents the group of concerned citizens, in a letter to the Board of Commissioners.
One of the biggest concerns for Owens is the state park.
"This state park is a treasure," he said. "You can't control or tell every single time a rail car comes in here, what it's been hauling. It could have been hauling chemicals, acid, fertilizer. As rain comes and things happen, and this washes off into Gum Creek, it's all going into Lake Blackshear."
WALB News 10's Emileigh Forrester observed several rail cars on the property Wednesday.
While these three men feel Basnar's intention could be to do no harm, they explained that they are worried about what could happen if the property is sold.
"My concern is, if this would happen, what else can happen in this area? If they're already doing things illegally, what could be next?" Huffman asked.
They also said they believe there are other properties in Crisp County that would be perfect for industrial zoning for this purpose. They simply don't want it on this property.
"We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to protect this state park," said Owens.
Meanwhile, the group said they believe if the Board of Commissioners approves the re-zoning, it would be against Crisp County's Comprehensive Plan.
In that plan, the property in question is designated as rural. The plan said the county would try to only allow limited development in rural areas.
The state park is in its own category, and the plan says the county would try to regulate land use on surrounding and adjoining properties
In a re-zoning request checklist, the county's planning director Connie Youngblood writes, "...the proposed use (...) should not affect the nearby property if used as presented by the applicant as strictly storage of empty hopper-bottom box cars."
Basnar's attorney declined to comment for this story.
We also talked with all five Crisp County Commissioners. Four of them, Wallace Mathis, Larry D. Felton, Sam N. Farrow, Jr., and James R. Dowdy, declined to comment.
Arthur James Nance, who represents District 1 Post 2, said the commission is considering all sides and will vote to try and give the county the least exposure to litigation.
In a letter to both the attorney for Basnar and the attorney for the group of concerned citizens, the county attorney for Crisp County said the commission will vote on this issue either at a called meeting over the next couple weeks, or at the latest at the next commission meeting June 12.