Airport business park development moving forward following meeting

The HCDA and City of Baldwin have agreed to move forward with the covenant surrounding development in the business park. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

The Habersham County Commission, Habersham Development Authority and Baldwin City Council met in joint session Wednesday evening to discuss issues surrounding the county’s airport business and industrial park.

RELATED: Communication issues stall airport business park development

The 19-person discussion panel included city council members, commissioners, city and county managers and the development authority (HCDA) meeting in the Habersham Electric Membership Corporation’s community room in Clarkesville, allowing enough space for the large session to convene.

The Habersham County Development Authority, Habersham County Commission and Baldwin City Council all met in joint session for their special called meeting surrounding the airport business park. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

During the meeting, the involved governing entities were able to openly discuss the issues they have experienced over the course of Baldwin granting a variance for development at the airport business park.

RELATED: Baldwin, county and development authority to hold public meeting on business park

“For one reason or another, this took a long time to get to this point,” Commissioner Ty Akins tells Now Habersham. “This was productive, it allowed us to resolve any issues, give everybody a chance to air everything out. . . hopefully, everybody can move forward with this in a positive direction.”

The main issue the Baldwin council seemed to have was a lack of communication with the DA. Baldwin’s mayor, Joe Elam, asked the authority for more “open dialogue” in the future development in the airport business park between the city and the HCDA.

Akins, who served on the HCDA for many years, encouraged further communication between the city and authority, and suggested a member of the City of Baldwin’s council will join the development authority as a representative from the city at future meetings.

Baldwin Councilwoman Alice Venter feels more hopeful for more communication and open dialogue between the governing bodies in the future.(Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

“Like Commissioner [Bruce] Palmer mentioned, we’re all so used to being in our own little worlds that we forget that we are very much making decisions that are involving other government bodies and that we very much shouldn’t be [divided].” Baldwin Councilwoman Alice Venter said of communicating between the two entities. She is also hopeful for more communication in the future.

The HCDA expressed their concerns that the city’s minimum development standards were too restrictive, and the city showed interest in sitting down with the HCDA and reviewing those standards.

The City of Baldwin created a covenant detailing how development will move forward at the business park, which the HCDA has agreed to and will vote to approve the agreement within the week. The covenant states that the stormwater retention ponds will be held to the standards they were originally designed as and that the HCDA will have the ponds inspected annually.

HCDA Chairowman Gail Thaxton feels that development in the business park will soon be “moving forward” following Wednesday’s meeting. (Hadley Cottingham/Now Habersham)

“The retention ponds [were] a speed bump in the road,” Habersham County Development Authority Chairwoman Gail Thaxton said. “We had to get that resolved. . . having new standards put in, we had to resolve all of that, and these people got together and decided to create this covenant with the agreement by the board, and we’re going to move forward.”

The City of Baldwin will meet Monday and will have their second reading of that covenant after they receive confirmation that the development authority has voted to approve it, making the granting of a variance for development in the business park the next in line for the Baldwin council.

“I cannot think of a time where three government bodies have gotten together and worked together so well,” Venter said. “Even just in the county, the fact that [there are] three governing bodies in one meeting, all working together towards a common goal, and the fact that we all communicated so well and that we’re all willing to do our part and take responsibility for our parts. I can’t think of a time that that’s ever happened here.”

The commission, HCDA and city all agreed that the meeting was productive, and they see development moving forward.

“We had to get it done, and we got it done,” Thaxton said.

WATCH: Baldwin HCDA meeting

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