After listening to nearly four hours of pros and cons Tuesday night, the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners decided to table a decision on a Special Land Use Application (SLUA) for the developers of Iron Mountain Park, a 4,229-acre development on Highway 52 West.
Typically, rules of a public hearing allow 10 minutes of public comment from supporters and then from opponents of an issue, but Lumpkin County Commission Chairman Chris Dockery opted to extend the time for both sides, noting the high level of interest - and concern - about Iron Mountain Park, telling the standing-room only crowd he was "here for as long as it takes."
The SLUA under consideration Tuesday night was for three specific purposes: an outdoor concert venue, ATV trail space and motocross. The lengthy conversation from both supporters and opponents extended beyond those three areas, however, and at times became emotional.
Developer Craig Stansberry, in his opening presentation, showed commissioners and attendees his extended plans for a headquarters building, retail space, microbrewery, RV campsites and 1,000 cabins on the property - which also extends into Dawson County.
A handful of supporters addressed commissioners after Stansberry's presentation, most saying the development would be beneficial for Lumpkin County's economy, especially if it brings employment to the region.
"It's going to be generating revenue for the county," said Zachary White. "I think it's a good thing...we have a 20% poverty rate and most people who live in this county have to leave the county to go to work...so I think jobs here in the county are a good thing to have."
The small number of proponents, who took less than an hour to voice their support, was overshadowed by opponents to the overall project, however. Speaker after speaker lined up to voice concerns about noise, traffic and safety.
Others, such as Lamar Bates, worried that visitors to the property would adversely impact water supply to full-time residents.
"We get our water from wells," Bates said. "Last time I noticed, there wasn't a chart to tell you how much water is left in your well. They're talking about putting 1,000 cabins [there]. They're going to be using water possibly from the aquifer that I get my water from, [as well as the] other 377 houses that would be affected by this development."
The overwhelming sentiment from the opposition, though, was the fear that Iron Mountain Park would disrupt the peace and quiet of the mountain area.
Stansberry was able to offer a brief rebuttal after the nearly three hours of opposition testimony and he expressed some frustration, especially with people who had complained that ATVs currently using his property had caused traffic problems for neighbors.
"A lot of the people in the neighborhood have their own ATVs and they do ride up and down the street on a regular basis. They also encroach on my property on a regular basis and ride through there and take pictures of everything that we're doing," Stansberry said. "I would like to ask these citizens to please stay off my property. They are not welcome. They have not signed a liability [waiver] and they need to stay off."
Stansberry also floated the possibility of scrapping the idea for the outdoor venue and instead erecting chicken houses on the land, prompting some in the crowd to accuse him of threatening them.
While the Commission had the option of either approving or denying the SLUA, Commissioner Bobby Mayfield said he wanted more time to digest the information he'd heard before he voted.
"I think it would behoove this Board, before we make a final determination, to gather more information, more specificity, because some of these things I'm just flying blind about," Mayfield said. "I need the staff to research them a little bit and let me make a better decision on what I need to do."
Dockery made a motion to table the SLUA vote, Commissioner David Miller seconded the motion and commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
The Board of Commissioners did not indicate when the SLUA might be brought up for future consideration.