The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved an industrial rezoning Thursday west of Lula after the board received pushback from neighboring residents.
The 95.51-acre tract of land located in District 3 on Cagle Road, bordering Lula Road and Cornelia Highway, has been working its way through the commission for several months now. The proposed rezoning has seen opposition from several neighboring residents whose concerns include increased traffic, noise, lowering property values and child safety.
Brett Maddox, who lives on a property bordering the area in question, objected to the rezoning, citing issues with the original application alongside concerns for the value of his land.
“[On the] survey of the properties around, it says, ‘Does this fall in line with the properties around it’ and it says that it does, even though everything is residential or agricultural,” Maddox said. “In fact, they're tearing down three houses to build it. It's kind of hard to say it belongs when there's not even anything industrial remotely touching it. It's all just residential.”
Brett’s wife Kayla has called Lula home for over two decades now. She feels county and city officials are pushing them out of the area by putting new warehouses in their backyard.
“I grew up here and for them to just basically push us out, it's just sad,” Kayla said. “We begged and begged for a grocery store. Our Dollar General is pathetic … we've begged for grocery stores but now we get a warehouse.”
For the Maddox family, issues with the rezoning don’t stop at land use. In the application for the rezoning, several property owners and contributors are named, including Philip Wilheit, Sr.
The process for a rezoning application to the county involves a requirement where applicants have to report campaign contributions made to commissioners over $250 in the past two years.
Maddox alleges that Wilheit failed to report contributions made to newly elected District 3 Commissioner Gregg Poole in the 2022 election cycle.
In a public records Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report for Poole, a donation of $1,000 from Philip Wilheit, Sr. was made on June 15, 2022. A separate contribution was made to Poole’s campaign by Philip Wilheit, Jr. in the amount of $500 on the same day.
In the application for the industrial rezoning, Wilheit, Sr. reported he had contributed “plus or minus $10,000 total” in the past two years to Commissioners Cooper, Higgins, Powell and previous Commissioner Shelley Echols. The contribution report from Wilheit, Sr. was submitted on Aug. 24, 2022, roughly four and half months prior to Poole taking office.
Maddox believes the application process should begin anew due to the fact that Poole is now a voting member of the commission and his name was not included in the commissioners that Wilheit, Sr. has contributed to in the last two years.
Hall County officials said since the rezoning application was submitted before Poole was officially elected as the commissioner for District 3, the process of the application remains unaffected.
Prior to action being taken on the rezoning during the voting meeting, Commissioner Poole stated the City of Lula was not against the proposed use of the property.
“Myself and Hall County staff have met with the City of Lula—at our last public meeting, it was said that the City of Lula was against this development,” Poole said. “I have it on record from the City of Lula leadership themselves that they were not against this development.”
Several residents reported being unconvinced after the voting session that Lula was not against the rezoning.
In email correspondence with Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin, he said Hall County has been in contact with him numerous times throughout the Cagle Road rezoning process.
“The city [Lula] comments do not express a recommendation for approval or denial of DRI’s [Development of Regional Impact] but rather data or information that would possibly affect the city and surrounding community,” Bergin wrote. “In this particular case the property is not in the city limits nor does the property adjoin the city limits, but in close proximity and will likely affect the community as noted. Our hope is to continue to work with potential development, and in this case Hall County, and address those specifics.”
Several concerns Lula officials expressed included a note of unintended consequences having to do with traffic and transportation struggles as more industrial developments are built in the area. Additionally, they claim project areas labeled as “Activity Centers” in the Future Land Use Map for the county are “very vague as to future uses and should address an extended list of desirable and prohibited uses prior to rezoning.”
The original rezoning approval from the Hall County Planning Commission included 13 conditions developers needed to consider during and after construction. The Board of Commissioners added three more conditions prior to their approval vote.
The proffered conditions involve site access from Cagle Road being limited to passenger vehicles, adding vegetative visual screens on the property and a requirement for builders to use earth-tone colors for structure facades.
Brett and Kayla Maddox said they now have plans to move across the street into Kayla’s parent's house, as they attempt to sell their home and move further north.
The land was previously zoned as Agricultural Residential IV and Suburban Shopping. Solidum Holdings, LLC applied for rezoning to Planned Industrial Development. According to officials, Good Will, LLC is the current property owner.
The Hall County Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning in January, obtaining a 3 to 1 approval vote that was forwarded to the Board of Commissioners for final consideration. After a postponed decision on the rezoning, the board voted in approval at the meeting March 23.
The reported intent is for the area to serve as a mixed-use business park, featuring industrial, commercial, highway business and office spaces. Warehouse plots will be sold as “pad ready” which allows developers to customize parcels as needed.