'Workforce housing' needed in city

The rendering of an apartment complex that is similar to the proposed Griffin Village shown to city of Griffin commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

While the annexation and rezoning of 30 acres on Williamson Road for an apartment complex means a great deal for those who support the idea and for those who oppose it, city Commissioner Holly Murray said it was a hard decision but it was also the right thing to do.

The City of Griffin Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the annexation and rezoning request. The property will now be used for Griffin Village, which will be an apartment complex for households earning 60% of the area’s median income.

Harvey Pilkenton made the annexation and rezoning request in December 2020. City commissioners voted March 23 to table Pilkenton’s proposal, requesting more information, such as traffic and school studies, before a final decision was made.

Griffin Director of Planning and Development Chad Jacobs said Pilkenton had since submitted a revised site plan along with supplemental information.

“The applicant has shifted the location of the development to the southeastern portion of the property in order to offer as much buffer to the properties along Oak Grove Road and to orient it more closely with existing commercial zoning and development. The applicant has also provided information from the City of Griffin Electric and Water/Wastewater Departments,” Tuesday’s meeting agenda states.

As for the supplemental information provided by Pilkenton, the city of Griffin stated in an April 7 letter that Griffin Power is able and prepared to install or complete installation of power availability to this property. Paragon Consulting Group will also provide a preliminary drain field area requirement for the project.

While Griffin Village is still in the design phase, the five-building complex will offer 150 apartments ranging from one to three bedrooms. Rent will run between $695 and $925 monthly and the apartments are for households earning 60% of the area median income, which is between $35,000 and $54,000.

According to the application, the apartment project will be financed with low-income housing tax credits and a permanent commercial loan.

City staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission recommend a conditional approval of the proposal, Jacobs told commissioners Tuesday.

The conditions require the development to be tied to the concept plan submitted and dated April 13 and that it cannot exceed 150 multiple-family dwelling units.

The conditions also call for a 100-foot vegetative buffer — either natural or planted — to be placed along all adjacent single-family, residentially used property lines located in Spalding County and a minimum 50-foot vegetative buffer to exist along all adjacent single-family property lines located in the city. The site cannot be mass graded, and disturbances will be limited as much as possible in keeping with the conceptual site plan.

During a public hearing prior to the board’s vote on April 27, former city Board of Commissioners member Dick Morrow addressed the board on behalf of Pilkenton. While Morrow said Pilkenton accepts the conditions, he also wanted to clear up some misconceptions people may have about the proposed complex.

The complex will not be geared to the Section 8 program, Morrow said. To rent an apartment in Griffin Village, an individual must have a documented income between $35,000 and $54,000.

“Anyone making $35,000-plus is earning way too much to qualify for Section 8,” Morrow said.

Of the complex’s planned 150 units, 15 will be one bedroom, 105 will be two bedroom and only 30 will be three-bedroom units, meaning 80% of the complex will consist of one- or two-bedroom units, Morrow explained.

“I commend the city commissioners for doing their homework and digging out the facts from the widespread misinformation disseminated. They understand the critical need for clean modern work force housing and acted responsibly. Now our teachers, firemen, policemen and other middle income workers in the $35,000 to $54,000 range will have a high quality option,” Morrow said Friday.

During a March public hearing, residents living near the proposed apartment complex voiced concerns — including increased traffic, overcrowded schools and lower property values — about the project.

“No one here is against affordable or Section 8 housing. It’s about putting a lot of units on a small piece of land,” Greg Hecht said during the April 27 meeting. He said it “made no sense” putting a complex in this location when there are already existing traffic issues in the area.

Hecht is an area attorney, and he said at the April 27 meeting that he was speaking on behalf of 25 clients he was representing and who were against the apartment complex.

Morrow said the next step in the project will be the beginning of the actual design, approval and permitting process by all of the regulating agencies including the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Division and the city of Griffin among others.