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Controversial Grayson Rezoning Spotlights Ongoing Housing Crisis

A standing room only crowd turned out last week to protest downsizing the square footage of homes in the third phase of Georgetown Commons in Grayson.

A controversial rezoning that was tabled for a second time in Grayson last week sheds some light on the ongoing housing crisis. It was evident that although Grayson doesn’t have a huge amount of houses on the market, many homeowners in the area are still feeling the crunch.

A standing room only crowd turned up for the public hearing on the rezoning that had been tabled from last month. Most of the residents were there to speak out against a zoning change allowing smaller homes to be constructed in the third phase of the Georgetown Commons development. A couple of problems arose requiring the matter to be tabled yet again, including the fact that Mayor Jim Hinkle couldn’t track down an official listing for the developer to practice in the state of Georgia. The developer is listed as Rialto Capital out of Florida.

Mitch Peavy, a spokesman for the developer, requested that the property be rezoned to allow Verias Construction to build homes in the 2,400 square-foot range instead of the minimum requirement of 3,000 square feet. He said although the homes would be smaller, they would still be upscale homes. He said no more than the 107 homes orignally planned would be built on the 65-acre property on Moon Road. Homes in the first phases, and neighboring subdivisions, were in the 4,000 square feet range and had sold in the $500,000 to more than $1 million price range. Peavy was proposing homes in the $200,000 to $220,000 price range.

The property has been undeveloped since the downturn in the housing market in 2008. There were a couple of people in attendance who thought that it was worth downsizing the planned homes to get the development moving again. However, for the most part, the individual speakers represented whole neighborhoods adjacent to the development that were very much against it.

“We strongly believe this rezoning will have adverse effect on property values and the property tax base - access to good jobs, schools and parks,” said Wendell Wright, a spokesman for the Heritage Grayson subdivision. "Lower-priced houses won't entice long-term investment in Grayson. This type of rezoning only benefits the developer and the bargain hunter.”

What also came to light was that three of the people speaking against the rezoning still owned second homes in the lower price range that they had not been able to sell. They said they believed that adding more homes in the $200,000 price range would just increase the inventory of homes valued at upwards of $200,000 that couldn’t even be sold for $130,000.

Grayson City Councilwoman Alison Wilkerson Rooks said she had done some research and her findings revealed that there were only 24 homes for sale in the city.

“And as of January 2011, 41 houses have sold,”Rooks said. “Those numbers aren’t bad. That’s actually a market coming back.”

But most of the people in the room were not convinced.

“I think we’re just going to have a lot of new empty homes – three people here have homes they haven’t been able to sell and this economy is not done yet," said Stacey Gyorgyi, a Grayson resident who had moved to the area from New York. "There’s another wave of foreclosure on the way and we’re going to have to deal with that,”

After two hours of discussion, the issue was tabled to be revisited during the July city council meeting.

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