HAHIRA -- Looking over 56 acres of row crop land at the edge of town, Hahira Mayor Myron Crowe and developer Gary Minchew aren't looking to the past at the raw land that has produced cotton for decades -- they are looking to the future, envisioning the 150 new houses that will soon take its place.

The population of the City of Hahira will swell with the addition of the two new subdivisions, developed by Teresa Minchew Properties. Speaking on behalf of the company, Gary Minchew said, "We've been working on this for about a year. Mrs. Little, who owns the property, has been approached before about selling it but when we showed her what we'd done in Foxborough with the entrance and the houses, she really liked what we want to do."

Half of the development will be called Lawson Farms in honor of the property owner, a native of Hahira whose maiden name is Lawson. The second half of the development will be named Woodbridge, named for a pond in the middle of the subdivision which will have a wood bridge built over it.

Minchew said they are also working with the property owner to preserve part of the land's history by purchasing a farm house that belonged to the family, moving it to a section of Lawson Farms and restoring it.

Lawson Farms will feature homes starting at $160,000, with a minimum of 1,800 square feet. Woodbridge will feature homes starting at $120,000, with a minimum square footage of 1,600 square feet.

Minchew said he will be transplanting trees from the edge of the property throughout the subdivision, which is bordered by Hagan Bridge Road, Lafayette Street, Coleman Road and Fry Street.

Construction on the first phase will begin the day the property closes in April, according to Minchew, with 15 lots in each area pre-sold to three home builders, Dixon Taylor, Prentice Taylor and Dennis Grimsley. The first phase will be located off Lafayette Street.

The property has been zoned for residential development for years, and construction on the first phase will begin as soon as the plat has been reviewed by the Regional Development Center and the Lowndes County Engineer.

Crowe said the water and sewer is already available for the development and Minchew has agreed to work with the city to install sidewalks and a turn lane to alleviate traffic concerns.

Crowe said, "The growth is coming our way and we want to start moving south to meet it. We are looking to annex some additional property into the city."

The mayor and members of the development team met with area residents last week to address their concerns over the subdivision. "There was a lot of fear of the unknown and people not knowing what was coming, but I think for the most part they were all pleased," said Crowe.

Acknowledging that there are those in the area who aren't anxious to see the city grow, Crowe said, "Growth is inevitable. We like to keep things like they've been, but the market demand for this area is there. It's our responsibility as mayor and council to monitor the growth and make sure it's a positive for the community. This development will add $15-$20 million to our tax base, along with cable franchise fees, water and sewer fees, garbage revenue, etc., plus what it will do for our businesses. We see this as a win-win situation."

Although known for years as the Honey Bee capital, famous for its annual festival each October, Hahira has also become well known for the quality of the elementary and middle schools and for the charm and friendliness of the small, tight-knit community.

Steve Smith, superintendent of the Lowndes County School System, said the board has a retreat scheduled for March 20 and will be addressing the growth issues in the north end of the county at that time.

"It's my understanding that there will be 100 more houses in Stone Creek, another 150 in a subdivision south of Stone Creek, and now these, so in the next 3 to 4 years, we could see 300 to 400 more children in Hahira Elementary, Hahira Middle School and Dewar."

Smith said the rapid growth affects the entire school system and the board will have to determine if they will need to build a new elementary school or rezone to shift enrollments to other schools. He said the system wants to be prepared for the growth when it comes.

According to Minchew, the homes in Lawson Farms and Woodbridge will be complete in 3-5 years, and the builders already have at least one home pre-sold.

"We think the typical buyer will be a working couple with children who know their kids will be safe here. You can stand on the property and see both schools from here," he said.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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