By Sydney Spencer
The annexation of over 400 acres of county land into Fayetteville and the possibility of a billion-dollar data center locating there has some neighbors in an uproar.
The City of Fayetteville approved a two-step annexation and rezoning request back in April. The Planning & Zoning Board considered on Tuesday whether to recommend a Step 2 annexation and rezoning request from the Fayette County Development Authority.
Well over 100 residents gathered during the board’s regular meeting to make sure their voices were heard about the potential data center project they said would impede on residential territory.
The Fayette County News reported in April that the proposed data center could bring up to 100 jobs with an average of $100,000 each. The large investment would raise property tax revenues from under $2,000 a year to potentially $200,000 a year after the first phase is complete, according to that report.
Over an hour of public dissent from residents had little effect on the final decision from the board, which ultimately voted to make the recommendation to the city.
Homeowners raised issues, ranging from environmental to noise pollution to increased traffic around the proposed facility. Neighbors whose lands abut the development tract were especially vocal about the impact a structure like a data center would have on their quality of life.
“My main concerns are noise, vibration, air risk, land risk, wetland risk and construction time frames. They have given us no time at all to prepare for any of this. Most of the neighbors did not even know it was going on, so it kind of feels like this was just a formality,” said Pam Atkinson, a Fayette County resident of over 20 years.
During the planning and zoning meeting, the request to annex was explained in further detail by community leaders.
Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Fayetteville, David Rast, said that the paperwork has been approved because all laws were followed when creating the annexation plan and all the corporation is waiting for is the final decision.
The board and representatives from the development authority were careful not to mention any specific projects or companies attached to the property.
“We have reviewed the annexation request and it does comply with 100% annexation method as identified in the Georgia annexation law. All of the paperwork and documents have been submitted which is why we are bringing this before you tonight,” said Rast.
The Fayette County Development Authority was also on hand to explain where specifically the annexation would take place, which territory it would occupy and why the annexation would be a sound decision the area.
“If the property is annexed into the city limits, the annexation would extend the city boundaries less towards Flat Creek Trail and a little further along Tyrone Road. If this land is annexed, it increases our ability to attract companies that would benefit our community,” said Development Board Chairman Darryl Hicks.
After the representatives presented the request to the board, public comments followed.
All of the Fayetteville residents who voiced their opinions on the request to annex the site, which is currently farmland, were opposed to it.
One resident expressed her deep concern for her children and other children who just started driving.
From experience, she said she has seen large trucks and other vehicles speeding down Tyrone Road and Flat Creek Trail. More traffic, she said, brings more danger to those already driving in the area.
“I have young children who are just starting to drive and as hard as it is right now with Pinewood Studios, Truett’s as it is called now, it is very difficult for me to have peace of mind knowing that my son is trying to drive to Sandy Creek on a tremendous road where people do not respect the 40mph limit drive,” said Maria Orozco.
Erica Gonzalez silently protested as she entered the meeting holding a sign reading, “Flat Creek Trail Says No!”
After hearing from representatives and public comments, board members explained the delicate balance of promoting economic development versus looking out for the interests of local property owners and taxpayers.
The board’s recommendation is not final and will be considered by the City of Fayetteville’s council on June 30, as well as the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.