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Commission recommends approval of complex

Eight ball fields planned for development

POSTED: July 6, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Adam C. Stapleton/

Attorney Steve Gilliam gives Dawson County planning commissioners an overview of a multi-field baseball complex proposed by property owner Russ Stephens.

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The Dawson County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of a controversial rezoning request during its most recent meeting at Rock Creek Park, May 20.
The request, put forth by county resident Russ Stephens, will change the zoning designation of 40 acres on Lumpkin Campground Road from its current Single Family Residential (R-2) designation to Commercial Highway Business (C-HB) in order to allow for the construction of a privately-owned baseball field complex.
Stephens' proposed development would consist of eight ball fields to be used by traveling baseball and softball teams for tournaments, games and practice.
Stephens said the complex would be a state-of-the-art facility catering exclusively to youth ballplayers ages 8-18.
"The baseball and softball fields will provide kids with the opportunity to develop athletic skills and leadership. There will be no impact on the schools and the impact on emergency services will be minimal," said Steve Gilliam, an attorney representing Stephens' proposed project.
Stephens also personally addressed county planning commissioners and opponents of his proposed project, defending the complex he believes will become a valuable resource to the community's economy and its youth.
"I did a lot of soul-searching. I wanted to give something back to the community in a positive way through its youth. I think our youth are our future and an investment in our youth will pay dividends greater down the line," said Stephens, who was joined at the meeting by several supporters of the project including Executive Director of the Development Authority of Dawson County Charlie Auvermann.
Auvermann gave commissioners a conservative estimate of the positive impact that the baseball field complex would have on Dawson County's economy, stating that the traveling teams who will use the complex will bring a significant amount of money to county hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Auvermann went on to use similar complex's that are in operation in the Atlanta area and in neighboring states that have already proven to be a tremendous success.
"We have the opportunity here for a great complex that is state-of-the-art and would be a great compliment to Dawson County," said Dawson County Director of Parks and Recreation Lisa Henson, in support of the project.
While Stephens' rezoning request and baseball complex project garnered significant support from community members, it also managed to meet with strong opposition from a nearly equal number of nearby homeowners, who fear the project will have a drastically negative impact on their quality of life.
Meadows Court resident Phil Wyrembelski was among several homeowners to speak in opposition during the meeting.
Wyrembelski called Dawson County a well-established county that he expects well-established people to be attracted to living in.
"We have 20 homes in The Meadows. I would say 90 percent of the people in The Meadows are either retired or soon-to-be retired. That baseball field does not coincide with what we have planned for our lives and our futures," said Wyrembelski, who expressed concerns of the increased level of noise and bright lights that the complex is sure to bring close to his and others' homes.
"I'd love to see them put a baseball field in, I just don't want it in my backyard," added Wyrembelski.
Bill Minor, another of the nearby homeowners, challenged the idea that the complex would be beneficial to the county's economy.
"I do admire the applicant's intentions to provide such a facility in the area, but the site should be one similar to the one we have at Rock Creek.
Because incoming teams are not going to come here to visit our shopping areas, they're going to come here to play ball," said Minor, who also stressed that commissioners be aware of the significant increase of road traffic that the complex would bring.
Following public comments, planning commissioners set about the difficult task of weighing the pros and cons of the proposed project.
"As far as the young people in this day and age, the alternatives to what they do in their own spare time, the sports complex is an excellent way to occupy their time," said District 2 Planning Commissioner Robert Corey, in support of the rezoning request and proposed baseball complex.
District 3 Planning Commissioner Lionel Graves stood firmly opposed to the request, while District 4 Planning Commissioner Vernon Smith expressed uncertainty at first.
"If you're close to Lumpkin Campground, or you're within a mile of 400, something's coming, period. I don't like it in some ways and in other ways I do, but something's coming. Whether it's this or something else," said Smith, who eventually decided that the proposed sports complex would be the best alternative and have a beneficial impact on a great number of people and the county as a whole.
Smith's swing vote in favor of the Stephens' project carried with it several stipulations though. The stipulations call for Stephens to adhere strictly to the complex's current design plans and county regulations concerning lighting and noise buffers, so as to limit the impact the project will have on neighboring residents.
Wyrembelski said he and others remain hopeful that they will be able to sway the Dawson County Board of Commissioners when the request is brought before them at the commissioners' next regular meeting, June 19.
E-mail Adam C. Stapleton at adam@dawsonnews.com.

 

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