Residents’ frustrations with the number of apartments proposed within Henry County boiled over into passionate comments during a late night county commissioners meeting on March 21. Though started at its usual 6:30 pm, the meeting lasted into the 11 o’clock hour.
Only one of three applicants on the agenda left with a zoning decision. The other two cases must be heard again after the board tabled them to April.
Residents Frustrations Boil Over
The number of new apartments either proposed or under construction in Henry County has been a major topic on MHF News’ radar. Residents are noticing the effect as well. In a standing room only crowd, the largest since before the pandemic, audience members spoke time and time again against rezoning requests for new apartments.
“We have grown tired of apartments,“ exclaimed Dutchtown area resident Jamal Avery. ”We are tired of apartments in Henry County; we do not want one more apartment development in Henry County.” Other speakers chimed in ”we do not want this in our neighborhood,” and “they’re not built [here] like they are in Marietta.”
Since 2019, developers have proposed over thirty new apartment complexes within Henry County. Note this number includes projects within city limits — outside of the commissioners’ zoning preview. One-third of proposals are in the Jonesboro Road / exit 221 vicinity. Residents from Jonesboro Road appeared to be a majority of those present on Tuesday night.
Despite the high number of requests, the future land use map and county comprehensive plan have supported almost all of them. The last comp plan update in 2018 added a mixed use category for the first time, concentrated at I-75. Consistency to the comp plan represents a major criteria point in staff’s review whether to approve or deny a request. State case law also prohibits county governments from denying a rezoning request because of traffic.
Considering the above factors, commissioners definitely appeared torn which direction to go on Tuesday night. Newly elected to the board this year, Commissioner Lewis made it clear he’s not a fan of apartments. He also remarked the proposed project at Jonesboro Road and Chambers was one of the better proposals he had seen. County Manager Cheri Matthews spoke up suggesting the board table the request so Commissioner Lewis could meet with the community and applicant. He inherited the rezoning request, first submitted in fall 2021, when he assumed office.
At the end of the meeting, Chair Harrell asked staff to expedite the in-progress code update to strengthen apartment development standards. She requested staff bring forth the changes in April if possible. On the contrary, the multifamily moratorium will end once Henry County adopts the new standards.
As an aside, the county is kicking off its comp plan update with public engagement events in April. The last comp plan created the conditions for today’s apartment requests. Now is the county’s chance to modify it. Stay tuned for more details and how to participate.
Apartments or Distribution Center
The one rezoning request to receive a decision on Tuesday night was off highway 155. The 47-acre property is west of Greenwood Industrial. The existing zoning allowed for a distribution center to build on the property. The applicant, Alliance Residential, sought rezoning for an apartment development. Their 330-unit proposal had less than half the otherwise allowable density for the property.
Commissioners debated whether to approve the apartments or leave the current zoning in place. Commissioner Wilson remarked he favored the as-is because warehouses cause less demand on public services. His remarks were met with applause from the audience. Others contrasted with concerns about more truck traffic from industrial development.
The board ultimately voted 3-2 (Thomas & Wilson opposed; Clemmons absent) in favor of rezoning. Another article to follow with more details about the specific development.
The board tabled rezoning requests at Jonesboro Road and Chambers, and state route 20 east of International Avenue. The items will be on the Tuesday, April 18, agenda.
Featured image shows map of March 2023 requests. Google satellite image.