Story by RUBY KEARCE
Note: Due to the length of the Nov. 14 meeting and press deadlines, this article is Part One of Two. Part Two of the business covered at the Nov. 14 meeting will run in the Nov. 22, 2023 edition of the Herald – Breeze.
Freeport City Council met for its regular morning meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Freeport Town Hall. A representative with the water department approached the board regarding the purchase of two vehicles that have been previously approved by the council. After comparing what is offered through state contracting and what is available at Triangle Chevrolet, the water department found that it would be more beneficial and still within the budget to purchase the two pickup trucks from Triangle Chevrolet. A motion was passed to allow for the purchase of these two pick up trucks from Triangle Chevrolet.
A representative of the Parks and Recreation’s department then approached the council to remind them of the upcoming Movie Night on Friday, Nov. 17 and to announce that the town’s Christmas ornaments and trees are beginning to go up. A representative for the Freeport Little League Board of Directors then approached the council with a request to use the fields for the upcoming 2024 Spring Season from Jan. 23 until July. The League is requesting the waiver of fees associated with the use of the fields at the Freeport Sports Complex to maintain a lower registration fee for athletes. The league is also requesting permission for vendors on Tee Ball’s opening day, regular season opening day, park day, and closing ceremonies. A motion was passed to approve the Freeport Little League’s request.
City Clerk Katherine Gatewood and City Manager Mark Martin approached the council to request a change of location for the Dec. 12 meeting because Christmas trees and presents will be taking up the meeting space, Gatewood has arranged for that meeting to be held at the County Offices on Hwy 20, on the same day and time as the original meeting. A motion was passed to allow for the relocation of the meeting.
City Planner Latilda Hughes – Neel then approached the council regarding RFQ’s for the expansion of the WasteWater Plant to upgrade to another half a million gallons a day. Dewberry Engineering was the only company to respond to the RFQ and met all of the requirements needed. A motion was passed to move forward with Dewberry.
The discussion then moved on to the controversial Genoa Landing Development on Four Mile Road. Genoa Landing is set to have 208 townhomes, three community parks, and a swimming pool, among other things. This development is anticipated to be completed in two phases, Phase One being 68 units, a community park, and a clubhouse; Phase Two is to have 140 units and two more community parks.
After a presentation by the development’s engineer Curtis Smith, the council learned that the area is zoned high intensity residential, which allows for 14 multifamily units per acre, and Genoa Landing is only planning 7 per acre. Smith acknowledges that this is the first project of its kind in the area and understands the pushback that the development is receiving from locals. Zoning only requires two parking spaces per unit, and Genoa Landing is providing three with a double car driveway and a single car garage and taking care to preserve trees and landscaping when possible.
During the public comment section of this discussion, multiple residents in the neighborhood beside the upcoming development took the stand to express concerns. The main concern is the size of Four Mile Road and how dangerous it could be for emergency vehicles and school buses to maneuver in that area. The concern is that this development will bring more traffic and more need for emergency vehicles to use Four Mile Road. There was also a concern about a larger buffer between the existing neighborhood and the upcoming development.
Smith explained that there is little that can be done regarding the road, due to it being a county issue, but added that they are willing to work with the county and city to mitigate this issue. Hughes-Neel also stated that the improving of Four Mile Road is already on the capital improvements list and the city should know more about the funding of this project by the summer of 2024. Smith said that construction of this development will take time and this issue could be mitigated before the ending of its construction. Then regarding the buffer between the neighborhood and the upcoming development, there is only a 15-foot buffer requirement and the development is going beyond that with a 25-foot buffer and agreeing to place a 6-foot privacy fence and landscaping to help mitigate that issue.
After being informed by City Attorney Clay Adkinson of the developers rights to develop on their land, a motion was passed to approve the development with the condition of adding the fence between the neighborhood and the upcoming development as well as adhering to the requests from the planning board. The motion passed, and afterward Council member Elizabeth Brannon stated that she feels for the upset community members, recounting how Hammock Bay came up beside her and the headache that was associated with it. However, legally the city’s hands are tied and it cannot risk being sued. Council member Elizabeth Haffner reiterated that the developer has rights and Adkinson was accurately informing the council of those rights.