Major changes cause more questions than answers concerning megasite

Presentation slide “What has changed?” from December 2019 (Henry County photo)

Five commissioners were present this week to receive an update about the megasite planning process in southwest Henry County. Two major events in October have created more questions than answers about the ongoing plan.

The first event was the annexation of nearly two-thousand acres by the city of Hampton. The consultant and county staff met with the land owner earlier this year about the megasite and were surprised when he filed for annexation. The large property is now subject to the city of Hampton’s zoning ordinances, not Henry County’s.

One of the study objections is to evaluate if Henry County can designate an official megasite and have it certified by the state’s economic development group. The two-thousand area tract had been the most likely area to receive the designation and still could be with Hampton’s cooperation.

Staff looked to the commissioners for direction if the megasite study should continue as planned, or if it should only focus on unincorporated areas. Commissioner Johnny Wilson raised the concern that Henry County could complete the plan then Hampton annex the entire area. Chair June Wood asked staff to continue dialogue with the city of Hampton and gauge their interest level before selecting either course of action.

The second event was a proposal by the Atlanta Motor Speedway to develop a casino and convention center-anchored entertainment district. The proposal depends on Georgia legalizing casino gambling via a statewide referendum and lawmakers selecting Hampton as one of the state’s sites.

If built, the development is estimated to create 3,000 jobs while under construction and 4,000 to 5,000 permanent jobs when complete. The job creation would meet and exceed one of the main goals from the megasite plan to diversify Henry County’s employment sectors and secure a new major employer in the county.

The Georgia General Assembly reconvenes next month for their 2020 legislative session. Casino gambling is expected to be a major topic where two-thirds of both chambers must approve the legislation. The statewide referendum would be in November 2020 if that happens.

Existing market supports residential and warehouses

As part of the megasite study, the consultants have completed a market analysis for Henry County. Their findings were summarized into the following:

  • Significant potential for residential development
  • Significant demand for industrial (mostly warehouses + distribution space)
  • Limited opportunities for higher income jobs

The consultants often stated a “catalyst” would be needed if Henry County wants to shape the market and bring in higher income jobs. What this catalyst may be would ultimately be up to the county.

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Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of Moving Henry Forward Community News. The website provides local news coverage in Henry County, Georgia.