By Sydney Spencer

The annexation of a 412-acre tract of land that could bring a large data center to Fayetteville has been approved but not without one last round of protests from the project’s neighbors.

The Fayette County Development Authority (FCDA) had approved the annexation plan weeks ago and left the ultimate decision in the hands of the Fayetteville city council, which voted unanimously to approve the step two annexation request. The four parcels are located within the northeast quadrant of Highway 54/Tyrone Road intersection.

Residents from the surrounding area had made their positions on the project clear back during the late May Planning & Zoning board meeting, which drew over 100 citizens, the majority of which are against bringing a data center to the neighborhood. They returned last Thursday to and voiced their concerns about possible traffic, noise pollution, sewage and wildlife danger.

“I have been a (Fayette County) resident since 2007, and I want to say that I emphatically oppose the proposed annexation and rezoning,” said Amanda Corey during the citizen comment portion of the meeting. “I feel like this will have a significant negative impact on our community and the ecology of the area. This area is historically one for farming, forestation and low-density residential…This is not an industrial park. It is not a place to be paved over or have concrete. We don’t want noise pollution, light pollution or sewage. Our traffic on Sandy Creek Road has exponentially increased since the institution of Trilith.”

One resident took to playing Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi during their time of voicing their concerns which grabbed the attention of everyone.

“52 years ago, Joni Mitchell wrote a song intended to warn us and encourage us to care for our planet,” said Diana, a local resident. “We didn’t listen to her (and) now we are facing the challenges of climate change. The decision to make about planning the billionaire data centers going forward will ultimately impact your descendants. I hope you are listening now.”

A Fayette County citizen holds up the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song to protest the annexation of land that could one day house a large data center. Photo by Sydney Spencer

To break the monotony, state representative of the west of Fayetteville for the 64th district Derrick Jackson voiced his opinion to the board by showing support of their possible approval of the annexation and rezoning.

“As you continue to move forward, if you all do so, I appreciate how you are incorporating your citizens’ voices,” Jackson said. “We have over 537 cities in the state of Georgia, not all cities are doing what you all are doing, so I applaud you for conducting a public hearing.”

“The City of Fayetteville will continue to grow because our population is growing. If we are not careful to attract new development, such as high tech, we will not be able to incorporate new young families,” added Jackson.

Director of Community Development David Rast spoke for the development wing of the city and presented the updated master plan to display the improvements made to meet the necessary criteria for the project.

“We have a request tonight to annex four parcels of land that are currently located within unincorporated Fayette County,” Rast said. “As a part of our staff review, we follow state law of the Georgia Planning Act and the Zoning Procedures Law when we receive a request for an annexation. The applicant is requesting, if the property is annexed, that the zoning classification be BP (business park) which is consistent with the zoning that is currently within the city.”

“We do not have a site plan; a site plan has not been submitted, and we have not approved a site plan. We have not approved the zoning. There is nothing that has been approved pertaining to this particular request. All we are considering is the annexation and zoning,” added Rast.

Rast continued his presentation by assuring residents that he and his staff have made sure the applicant has fulfilled required standards for their master plan.

“We have reviewed this with all of our staff, our technical review committee, our city engineer, director of public services, fire marshal and building official. All of the staff that typically reviews a plan as it moves through the process and each of them provided feedback on the county’s comments as well as items they would like to see incorporated if the ultimate recommendation was that the annexation and rezoning be approved,” said Rast.

Once Rast concluded his presentation, the floor was open for the above public comments.

After listening to everyone’s comments on the proposed master plan, the board voted to approve step two of the annexation and rezoning request.

“I think the decision reflected on the fact that we understand in today’s time that we need to be consciously aware of the economic needs in the city of Fayetteville and Fayette County,” said Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson. “With the technology park and the approval of this rezoning and annexation, it gives us the opportunity to keep pace with technology.”