Tentative Agreement Reached on Baldwin Annexation Proposal

The city of Baldwin was set to head into an arbitration hearing with the county this morning over a proposed annexation of approximately 145 acres off of GA-365 and Wilbanks Road and fronted by Thompson Road.

However, that did not happen as attorneys negotiating on behalf of the city of Baldwin, Lula Capital and Habersham County reached a tentative agreement late Wednesday night. If approved, the agreement would pave way for a large housing development.

Initially, the number of units in the development was in excess of 730 but under the new agreement, that number has been reduced down to 580 residences. Baldwin Mayor Joe Elam told WCHM the property would consist of apartments, townhomes and single-family homes.

According to County Manager Phil Sutton, the attorneys for the three parties are working now on a negotiated settlement for consideration by the Habersham County Board of Commissioners and the city of Baldwin. The arbitration hearing is suspended until the elected officials can consider the proposed agreement.

"We're going to present that to the county commission on Monday," Sutton says, "and to Baldwin also very early either late this week or early next week to see if the elected officials agree to it."

Discussions and debates over the property have gone on for months. Sutton says the county initially balked at the annexation back in June because of the density being greater than what is normally allowed by the county and secondly, he says the current transportation infrastructure would not meet the demand. Residents have also spoken in opposition, citing traffic concerns and a desire to not change the rural nature of the land.

"It's quite scary because we've never seen growth like this in our community," Elam said. "And I think that's where it all comes from. It's such a big project that no one really knew how to respond."

Even with the reduction of over 150 homes, Sutton still calls the density "pretty intense" but also said the development would provide a need for workforce and affordable housing.

"It benefits industry who is looking for workers who are local and it's going to provide housing for the workforce which is very necessary," Sutton explained.

Sutton says he hopes a draft of the agreement will be available early next week.