The Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) on Tuesday passed the master plan for the Highlands Boulevard extension and light industrial parcels in Western Chatham County.
Highlands Boulevard currently ends in a turnaround which limits all residents within The Highlands development to one point of ingress/egress on Benton Boulevard. As proposed, the road will continue in a Southwestern direction from the turnaround to its intersection with Morgan Lakes Industrial Drive. Also MPC officials say there will be a 200 ft. vegetative buffer separating industrial sites and residential areas.
Gary Plumbley is an MPC Project Planner tasked with the Highlands project.
“Provide a buffer and also provide the design of the future road so that truck traffic will not go into the Highlands,” said Plumbley.
He says Morgan Lakes Industrial Drive will intersect Jimmy DeLoach Parkway and heavy trucks and trailers will be restricted from Highlands residents’ properties.
But for two-year resident of the Highlands Josue Valentin he, like others, has concerns.
“This wasn't the vision when I purchased my home. I am concerned about property value, safety, who wants to live boxed in by warehouses. You have one of the biggest schools in the area, kids safety, resale value,” said Valentin.
His concern is that MPC officials are not listening to Highlands resident concerns.
“What is supposed to happen to us we were part of a plan that now seems to be shifting to accommodate warehouses,” he said.
The new project and growth has also gained the attention of Alderman Van Johnson.
“The continued proliferation of warehouse usage in that corridor continues to be concerning for the residents and me as one of their representatives and we have to be able to manage that growth,” said Johnson.
As planned the new Master Plan allocates industrial parcels that would butt up against the vegetative buffer.
“It will really result in five developable sites for distribution warehouses,” said Plumbley.
And with the Port being the leading economic driver of the economy, MPC officials say that is what is driving the expansive growth in Western Chatham County.
“This is not the end of it, as the Port grows which is a good thing for everybody, there is going to have to be things that grow along with that,” said Plumbley.
MPC officials say that no occupation licenses for light industrial property will be issued until Morgan Lakes Industrial Drive is completed, which should take less than two years.
“You will see activity on the site but you will not see them in full operation until such time as the road is put in as mandated by the city of Savannah,” he said.