Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
It may not be the Fourth of July, but expect to hear some loud fireworks over the Columbia County Government Center in Evans tonight. Angry residents from Petersburg Station and other Martinez neighborhoods surrounding the controversial Magnolia Trace low-income rental housing development plan to show up in large numbers at tonight's commission meeting in protest of the development that was unanimously approved by commissioners last year. They contend that the high density low-income subsidised rental housing will erode their property values, increase crime and put a strain on neighborhood schools.
A Facebook Group opposing the development called Say No to Magnolia Trace Housing Project boasts over 225 members and that number appears to be growing by the hour. But will that translate into a large showing at tonight's Columbia County Commission meeting?
The group has directed their ire particularly at Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who has said that the development will be a positive for their "older community" and Trey Allen, The District 2 commissioner who represents Martinez and has also been supportive of the development. Many are particularly displeased with Allen for not showing more concern for their property values when he was a vocal opponent of stadium lights at Augusta Prep because he maintained they would erode his property values in Spring Lakes. Opponents of the Magnolia Trace subsidised housing contend that this development will have a far more negative impact on their property values than "stadium lights."
Though Commission Chairman Ron Cross appears to be an enthusiastic supporter of the development, Sheriff Clay Whittle and School Superintendent Charles Nagle are being more cautious. There are concerns that the influx of more low-income students into that part of Martinez will make Lakeside High a Title 1 school. Sheriff Whittle also has raised concerns about crime from other rental properties in the county, especially apartment complexes, but is cautiously optimistic given assurances that the Magnolia Trace development will require criminal background checks for applicants.
Still, neighbors of Magnolia Trace are not in the least bit "optimistic" and it is still not quite clear if they will be able to stop this development. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs has already issued the subsidies and the development is already under construction. What particularly angers the resaidents is that they were not consulted or made aware of the nature of this development before the commission gave its approval last year.
Even if they cannot stop the development at tonight's commission meeting, they still want to voice their anger over the actions of their elected officials in this matter. They may not show up with pitchforks and torches (organizers haver promised to keep the protests civil), but tempers most certainly are running high. In fact some people are calling for the re-call of Chairman Ron Cross and commissioner Trey Allen. That's not likley to happen under Georgia's re-call laws, but it illustrates the anger and frustration some residents feel over this and what they contend is a disconnect among the elected officials and their constituents.***
CityStink.net Continuing Coverage
CityStink.net will have a correspondent covering tonight's Columbia County Commission meeting and we will bring you the report (including video) as soon as it becomes available.
If You Go:
What time?: 6:00pm today
Where?: Columbia County Government Center Complex Auditorium, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive, Evans
Issue: Citizens presentation Protesting The Magnolia Trace Low Income rental housing development .
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