Falcon Design Consultants President John Palmer, standing right, presents the plans for River Park to the Butts County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday.

Butts County’s Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended denial of a rezoning application that could pave the way for up to 18 million square feet of warehouse space near Interstate 75.

The application, by LGS Industrial LLC, was before the Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday. The commission is a recommending body, and is required to hear such applications before final decisions by the Board of Commissioners.

LGS Industrial is planning a multi-use development at the Ga. Highway 16 interchange with I-75 that would include 1,225 acres of industrially zoned property, nearly 110 acres of commercial development and 89 acres of residential property that would include a gated community of up to 200 single-family homes.

LGS Industrial is calling the development River Park.

Butts County Zoning Administrator Christy Lawson told the Planning Commission on Thursday it “may be the largest single development the county has ever had.”

John Palmer, president of Falcon Design Consultants, presented the plans to the commission Thursday, noting it would be a 20-year project with a value of up to $1.14 billion when completed.

He said in all, the project would span 1,770 acres with property inside Spalding County in addition to Butts. Palmer argued the project concentrates the industrial growth sure to come to Butts County — and the traffic it would generate — in an area with ready access to the interstate.

“It’s something we see as smart growth,” Palmer said. “ ... This is planning for what you know is coming and doing something about it in a smart-growth way.”

During a public hearing Thursday, the project faced some opposition from Butts County residents and questions from others.

Carol Barnes of Dean Patrick Road said she feared the development would generate traffic comparable to what she faces in Henry County. “We do not go anywhere on the weekends because you can’t get there from here,” she said.

Jenkinsburg Mayor Eddie Ford questioned the wisdom of allowing development of industrial property on the interchange seen by some, historically, as one ripe for the kind of retail development that contributes to local option sales tax collections.

“I know for a fact how taxable retail sales affects our economy,” Ford said. “But how does e-commerce affect our income over the longterm?”

Planning Commission members also pointed to long dreamed-of retail development at the interchange. Commissioner Walter Mayfield noted the time spent crafting a comprehensive development plan for the county that imagined retail uses at the northern-most of the county’s two interchanges, and said the project falls outside of those goals.

“I can’t fathom how many trucks it takes to fill up and empty 18 million square feet of warehouses,” he said, later noting that the west side of the I-75 at Ga. 16 is already home to distribution centers with more planned.

“If we can hold the east side ... and protect it for commercial, I think we should,” Mayfield said.

He later made the motion to recommend denial of the rezoning request, which passed on a 3-1 vote.

And though he voted against the recommendation to deny, Planning Commission Chairman Allen Byars pointed to fears of being a home to empty and under-utilized warehouse developments.

“We don’t want to be compared to Henry County,” Byars said.

The Butts County Board of Commissioners is expected to take up the rezoning application during its Oct. 7 meeting.

Managing Editor

Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.