By Tia Lynn Ivey
A new massive development proposal could catapult the Town of Buckhead into a prosperous future, but critics worry such explosive growth could jeopardize Buckhead’s small town rural way of life.
The Town of Buckhead could more than double in size if a request to annex 487 acres into the small town is approved. Five property owners, working with a developer and Buckhead, are requesting seven parcels of land near Seven Islands Road on the Northside of I-20 to be annexed into the Town of Buckhead and rezoned to accommodate future residential and commercial developments.
“This annexation would double the size of Buckhead. It has the potential to change the entire dynamic of the town,” said Tara Cooner, county planner. “However, there is also tremendous potential to bring in a lot more tax dollars for the Town of Buckhead. The Buckhead Council will have to weigh that out and decide what’s best for the town.”
Currently five of the land parcels are zoned Agricultural Residential (AR) and two of the land parcels are zone County Agricultural (CA). The property owners are also requesting a special Commercial Interstate zoning district to be created in the Town of Buckhead to accommodate “mixed-use developments.” To date, no detailed plans have been released to show what kind of businesses or housing units could one day be built, should the annexation and rezoning pass.
The Morgan County Planning Commission will review the proposal at the March meeting, possibly rendering a recommendation for approval or denial. That recommendation will not go before Morgan County Commissioners, but to the Town of Buckhead council to vote on final approval.
County Commissioner Ron Milton, who lives in Buckhead and represents the district on the Board of Commissioners, is worried about the possible developments disturbing Buckhead’s quality of life for residents who want to keep Buckhead small, rural, and quiet. With a population of about 175 people, multiple residential and commercial developments could change the entire feel of Buckhead, said Milton.
“Buckhead is a sleepy, little quiet town with not much going on,” said Milton. “It’s a country life and we do love it.”
Milton worries about what kind developments could be in the works but also just the sheer scope of the projects.
“I don’t think people out here realize the potential size of this,” warned Milton. “Its such a big decision for the folks on the little town council. That kind of development could affect a lot of people and other businesses in Buckhead. They have to consider what those effects could be. I don’t want to see them bite off more than they can chew.”
Both Milton and Cooner expect some opposition to emerge once word spreads about the proposal.
Some dissenters already showed up at the last Morgan County Board of Commissioners meeting, but county officials explained it’s not up them.
“The buck stops with the Town of Buckhead on this one,” said County Manager Adam Mestres.
According to County Manager Adam Mestres, the county’s only option would be to issue and objection, which would then go to mediation to be settled, but county commissioners have no intention of taking that route.
“The way the county looks at it, it’s up them,” said Mestres. “It will go before the county planning commission and then to the Town of Buckhead council. For those concerned about this annexation and rezoning, they need to be at the next planning commission meeting and Town of Buckhead Council meetings for the public hearings. That’s where they can have their voices heard.”
According to Cooner, more detailed plans for the possible proposed developments will be given to planning members and disclosed to the public in the near future. The next proposal will be addressed at the Thursday, March 26 County Planning meeting at 7 p.m, held in the upstairs of the County Administrative building, located at 150 East Washington Street in Madison.
After the county planning commission issues a recommendation, the Town of Buckhead will consider the matter on Monday, April 20 at 7 p.m. at the Buckhead Firehouse located at 4741 Buckhead Road.