VALDOSTA — Developers of The Cove at Lake Laurie won the first approval Monday of a one-month delay of consideration of their request to rezone an approximate 22-acre parcel from R-15 to Planned Residential Development.

Cove Partnerships proposes to build 78 high quality homes as The Cove at Lake Laurie on the land that is located at the corner of Lake Laurie Drive and Staten Road, also known as Cherry Creek Road.

The Greater Lowndes County Planning Commission voted 7-0 Monday night to recommend that the Valdosta City Council table its consideration of the rezoning when it meets July 5 so that an amended site plan can be reviewed by the planning commission at its regular July meeting.

Planning Commissioner Jennifer Powell abstained from voting because she said she is a resident of Cherry Creek and she plans to speak on the matter before the City Council.

A large crowd of residents, most who oppose the proposed development’s high density, attended the Monday night planning commission meeting but left abruptly after the issue was recommended for postponement. No public discussion was allowed.

Mark Courson, president of Mark Courson Construction Co. of Valdosta and a key partner in Cove Partnerships, wrote a letter dated June 22 to City

Planning and Zoning Administrator Anne-Marie Wolff requesting the delay.

The rezoning, if approved, would allow the developers to increase their current allowance of 3 units per acre under R-15 (excluding roads and room for other infrastructure) to 3.5 units per acre under a planned development class. That means 78 homes would be built where current zoning would allow 54 homes, according to opponents of the development.

The developers say they can build 63.5 homes under the current R-15 zoning.

The homes would be built 10 feet apart on lots that average 55 feet in width with 10 foot deep front yards, five-foot side yards and 5 foot rear yards. A 30 foot wide natural buffer would separate the development from surrounding properties. The homes would be single and two-story residences and would list from $250,000 to $400,000 depending on chosen amenities. The homes would be built in two phases with approximately 40 homes built in Phase 1.

Some Cherry Creek residents who live near the proposed development site vehemently oppose the development, which would put 78 single family homes within view of their back yards. Those residents contend that building 78 homes on 22 acres is far too high a density to allow and would ruin the character of a neighborhood that, in their case, features one to two-acre lots.

The Cove developers met with concerned residents in a town hall-styled meeting June 21 to discuss the development and give them an opportunity to discuss their concerns. That session apparently inspired the request for the delay, according to Courson’s letter.

“After having conducted a neighborhood town hall meeting allowing us, the developers, an opportunity to present our concept and having offered a form of dialogue for neighbors to voice their concerns, we have decided to table our request for one month to allow us time to address and clarify the issues that were brought before us,” Courson wrote.

Doug Carter, another Cove partner, said more than 100 mostly residents turned out for the town hall meeting. Several raised questions and made suggestion on issues the developers “had not honestly considered before,” Carter said Monday.

“We decided the best thing to do was to table the rezoning request so we can investigate some of these suggestions and options to see if we can answer some of the concerns some of the neighbors have,” he said. “It’s cost us another month, but we feel like at this point it’s better to do this rather than try to rush something through without all exploring options out there.”

Whether reducing the density of the proposed subdivision is a key consideration the developers will entertain is not known at this time, Carter said.

One resident who attended the town hall meeting, who is one of the more outspoken opponents of the development, suspects that the developers still want to build the original 78 homes.

“Even after the Cove Partners’ ‘town meeting,’ my reaction to the Cove proposal has not changed.” said Hap Ertlschweiger, 825 S. Lakeshore Dr. “The Cove plan to build 78 houses on 21.9 acres next to almost 2-acre lots is not consistent with the Cherry Creek Estates residential area. There is no reason to increase density in the neighborhood.”

Ertlschweiger says he left the town hall meeting early because he said the developers would only allow written questions, and would only entertain the questions after they first explained exactly how they would build the 78 homes.

“The Cove Partners’ request to have their re-zoning request tabled is a delay tactic in hopes that the Cherry Creek residents’ wrath will subside over time,” Ertlschweiger said. “I assure you that it won’t.”

Carter said the majority of the attendees to the town hall session gladly complied with the request for written concerns or suggestions. Tabling the request is anything but a delay tactic, he countered.

“It’s not a delay tactic, but a chance for us to try to consider some of the questions, concerns and suggestions that these concerned neighbors had, to give us a chance to work it into our equation to see if it’s possible any of these things can be done,” Carter said. “We want to make a well informed decision. Taking the time to explore all the options enables us to do that.”

Carter reiterated his characterization of the development as one that provides the home-buying public in Valdosta progressive options that are available in Atlanta or Florida. “It’s an innovative concept that is really one that people in this community should have as an option,” he said.

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