The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate got the go-ahead from the planning commission Monday night to develop an area on Lance Road for seven homes with an option to purchase another 10 acres for future houses at the same site.
Habitat for Humanity Pickens County was seeking a rezoning from agricultural to suburban residential on the entire 18-acre parcel to allow the cluster of homes.
While a small number of nearby property owners spoke in opposition, the rezoning passed and will be forwarded to the board of commissioners for final approval.
Brent Jordan, who lives near the proposed project, objected based on his knowledge of the Habitat operation in Americus, where he is from and the national Habitat organization began and is headquartered.
Jordan said people in Americus area “don’t trust them” and then presented ample research of land deals gone wrong and people who felt Habitat had tricked them or where the national organization had left shoddy homes in their wake.
Keith Scott, president of the local Habitat group, said he couldn’t refute or defend, nor did he question Jordan’s research on other affiliates, but said that the group here is quite different and “I’ll let Pickens Habitat’s record stand for itself.”
Habitat has operated in Pickens County for 11 years and is now at work on their 15th house. According to testimony at the planning commission, all 14 houses completed are still occupied by the original families who put their sweat equity into the building process. Habitat works with families to arrange payment plans for the house and requires them to put work into the building process. Habitat for Humanity stresses it is not a hand out or free house. Scott said there have been a few minor payment problems but none of the families have been foreclosed upon which is a pretty good record considering the economics of the past decade.
Scott, responding to commission member questions, noted that Habitat families are screened much more thoroughly than an average person moving into a vacant house. He said they check everything they can legally check, including the financial information a bank would require before making a loan as well as any criminal records.
“The folks we have selected for the first 14 houses, I will stack up against my neighbors,” he said.
This is the first cluster of homes Habitat has built here and the group plans to create covenants for the new area just like a subdivision and indicated they would likely form a homeowners association there.
Scott said having the property arranged for several houses at once will allow them to accelerate their program to build two houses a year.
A second resident also objected to the project saying that one or two Habitat homes might be fine but seven is too many. Nearby homeowner Cindy Moss said they have a nice subdivision and this many Habitat homes on the adjacent land will hurt property values.
Both Moss and Jordan referenced the strip mall at the front of their area on Highway 515, which has seen a string of unsuccessful start-ups, as also harming their neighborhood.
In the end the planning commission voted for rezoning to allow the Habitat project. Habitat board members thanked the neighbors for coming and voicing their concerns and spoke with them following the meeting.
• In another rezoning: the planning commission voted to rezone 5.668 acres on Matthews Road to residential so a Pickens family could build a single home on it. Rick and Merrimeth Phillips told the commission they intend to build a home with a private shop for their use and a detached garage. They also plan to have some animals including a few chickens and a Jerusalem Burro on it. A Jerusalem Burro is a burro with a naturally occuring colored cross on it’s back.
Mr. Phillips told the commission he had grown up on a similar piece of property and wanted his children to have the same experience growing up.