Robert Young, president of Temple-Inland, said that because of Barr’s abrupt departure he understands there will be a delay in what has already become a lengthy process in whether the county government will approve the Wolf Creek proposal. But he said he is also anxious to get started on building the project.
The Wolf Creek Planned Unit Development, if approved, would become a community of 20,000 single- and multi-unit homes. The development plans for retail and other commercial business, schools and public safety on 10,950 acres in southeast Carroll County near Whitesburg. The project would include another 616 acres in Douglas County.
“Mr. Barr’s resignation was unfortunate for the county and was, as with most people, unexpected by me,” Young said. “I expect that the candidate Carroll County voters elect to serve as chairman will act in the best interests of the county, which includes fairly and open-mindedly considering our plans for Wolf Creek.
“If they do, they will see the real benefits to Carroll County in having a single developer who is committed and planning for growth, rather than having multiple developments come in the county in a piecemeal fashion without concern about schools, roadways and public safety.”
Barr resigned as chairman of the Board of Commissioners in June amid controversy over a significant increase in insurance premiums for county employees. Barr cited dissension among both county employees and the board itself for his reasons to step down two and a half years into his second term.
Herman Ayers, a veteran commission member, was appointed interim chairman.
Voters will go to the polls on Sept. 18 to elect a chairman to fill Barr’s unexpired term. Republicans Jimmy Godbee, John Denney and Bill Chappell, and Democrat Tom Flippo are campaigning for the position.
Godbee resigned his position as a county commissioner to run; Denney resigned as chairman of the board of the Carroll County Water Authority, though he remains a board member.
“It is my intention to work with the current remaining commissioners and also the future commissioners who are elected,” Young said. “Certainly, I would prefer to not be delayed in an already lengthy process, but understand the unpredicted delay caused by Mr. Barr’s resignation has not been an intentional delay on the part of the county. I hope as soon as practical to move forward with our Wolf Creek proposal and work with the county as they plan and manage for future imminent growth.”
County Attorney David Basil said Barr’s resignation would delay the Wolf Creek application process.
“Absolutely. It will definitely have an impact. Someone very familiar with that project is no longer overseeing it. You need a chairman and day-to-day manager to take over,” Basil said.
While forgiving of the current situation in the change of government of county leadership, Young hinted at some frustration with how long the process of approval or denial of Wolf Creek has taken since he first brought his plans to the county government in late 2004.
“... I believe it is safe to say that we understood from the beginning that this project’s consideration by the county would span a period of several years, but clearly we did not think the approval would take this long,” he said.
“My impatience, if any, in this endeavor is somewhat fueled by the fact that I believe deeply that Wolf Creek will have a very positive effect on the area, and I am anxious to get started on actually building Wolf Creek.”
Any decision from the Board of Commissioners is not likely to come soon.
The county government is “in midst of a southeastern plan proposal,” said Basil on Thursday. “The board has a consultant proposing ideas about the future of that area. We expect Temple-Inland to provide information about infrastructure in the near future so we can be looking at the level of detail required of the development that size.”
Temple-Inland submitted a rezoning application for Wolf Creek in December 2004. It would take approximately 35 years to develop, with an estimated population of about 56,835. The mixed-use development would include residential, commercial, retail, light industrial, schools, municipal and recreational uses. Greenspace would include parks, hiking and bike trails and other open spaces.
Since the original rezoning submittal, Young and Temple-Inland have had meetings with adjacent property owners, “interested stakeholders,” county commissioners and county government staff, the Carroll County Water Authority, the Carroll County Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The Wolf Creek project was subject to a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) review by the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Development Commission, which determined it to be in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state.
Young said that based on recommendations from the DRI review, and at the request of the county, he and Temple-Inland officials attended a workshop with the Department of Community Affairs, a workshop he said included “many stakeholders” from Carroll County.
“We also gathered input from about 250 residents,” he said.
The DCA workshop, he said, produced a character plan for southeast Carroll County which was based on impacts to the natural resources of the area.
“Based on our meetings and input from residents and stakeholders, we have made modifications to the original concept plan for Wolf Creek,” Young said.
Among the changes, according to Young, are the addition of a north-south road connecting Highway 16 to Highway 166; a shift of uses and densities out of the Lake Seaton watershed, and the development of Wolf Creek Character Areas.
“We have accumulated input from many meetings with local residents, stakeholders, the county, and national experts,” Young said, “and we have created a plan to develop the property in ways to conserve natural resources and maintain the rural character of the area while minimizing impacts to the environment and water quality.
“Our latest master plan for Wolf Creek has been changed to reflect these issues.”
Young said an increase from 6.5 mills to 8.5 will not have an impact on Wolf Creek in terms of the planning and approval process. He does believe, however, that development of Wolf Creek would “reduce millage rates” and “prevent future increases” by providing commercial, office, industrial and retail development.
He said the need for the millage rate increase now should be attributed, in part, to past development in the county that has not generated sufficient tax revenue to pay “for the desired services of the citizens.”
“On every new development that is considered by Carroll County,” he said, “the question should be asked, ‘does the tax revenue generated by the project pay for the services that are needed by its occupants?’
“This would provide the county with a better balance of uses to offset the cost of residential development. Standards should be implemented to assure quality and balance. I believe new development should pay its own way, and we have pledged to pay our fair share of the infrastructure improvements as we develop Wolf Creek.”