Letter to the Editor – Habitat Supports Zoning Efforts in South Bulloch
On August 16, the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners approved a six-month moratorium on building permits for southeast Bulloch County. We support the moratorium because the county needs to plan for the inevitable new growth driven by the upcoming Hyundai plant, Port of Savannah expansion, and other upcoming industrial developments along I-16.
Many residents of southern Bulloch County oppose any new residential and commercial development in this area. We deeply sympathize with the desire of these good people to maintain their rural way of life. However, economic pressures from outside Bulloch County have already ruled out the idea of southern Bulloch County remaining rural.
With all the high-paying industrial jobs moving to the vicinity of I-16 in adjacent counties, zoning laws cannot prevent residential growth. If Bulloch County zones for two-acre lots in South Bulloch, the zone will fill with homes on two-acre lots, and if County zones for five-acre lots, the zone will fill with houses on five-acre lots. Market forces and real estate tax values will drive this no matter what the county does.
County leaders seem to understand this and want to plan and zone high-density housing in parts of southern Bulloch County. Their thumbnail plan makes sense as a starting point.
We are particularly encouraged that the US 301 and GA 67 water and sewer lines from the Statesboro Public Works facility provide ample opportunity for high density housing in the triangle between these two roads. and the I-16. We understand that a small portion of southeast Bulloch County may also have the ability to connect to Bryan County water and sewer, allowing for high density housing development in a few areas.
Note that just because an area receives water and sewer and is zoned for high-density development does not mean the county is forcing landowners to sell the property or develop it. Tax values will do this with or without county cooperation. If the county puts the proper zoning and infrastructure in place, the kind of development you want will naturally emerge in the right places to make everything structurally work. Whether new development emerges in a planned, structurally functional way or not, it happens nonetheless.
Why is development inevitable? As more high-income jobs move into the area, housing demand will drive up property values no matter what. As property values increase, property taxes also increase. It is already happening.
This year, Bulloch County property taxes are increasing significantly despite a reduction in the county’s mileage rate. The real estate market is responsible for most of the property tax increase this year. The upcoming new industrial plants in the I-16 area will greatly intensify this in South Bulloch.
Eventually, property taxes in South Bulloch will exceed rental income generated from farming. This, and not zoning laws or even infrastructure, will drive the agriculture of South Bulloch. We don’t know of any political tool available to the county that can stop this.
What can happen if Bulloch County tries to prevent development between Statesboro and I-16? Well, anyone working in the factories who can’t afford housing near I-16 will find it in Statesboro and the North and West County areas of Statesboro.
As things stand, many of these workers will choose to live in Statesboro anyway because of the college town vibe. This voluntary growth will actually benefit Statesboro. However, forcing Statesboro to meet all of the housing needs generated by new industry along I-16 will overwhelm the rental market of relatively high income earners and drive rental prices throughout Statesboro much higher than they wouldn’t otherwise.
Property tax values in Statesboro will incentivize homeowners to redevelop low-income Statesboro neighborhoods into upscale properties. People who cannot afford new housing will have no place to go but the streets.
Additionally, tax values will expand residential development north and west into parts of Bulloch County where agriculture and a rural way of life might otherwise survive. Additionally, the county’s policy pushing development north and west of Statesboro will significantly increase traffic through Statesboro and require the county to invest in far more infrastructure improvements in a much larger area than it currently needs. would do otherwise. This would increase infrastructure costs, leading to higher property tax mileage rates, which would accelerate development throughout the county.
The political ban on the urbanization of South Bulloch will lead to more rapid urbanization and gentrification of the entire county.
habitat for humanity