Hall County Board of Commissioners
What: Public hearing and final action on proposed rezoning for homes for women involved in sex trafficking
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
The housing market can be a fickle thing, as played out in a recent scenario involving Cresswind at Lake Lanier in Gainesville.
In 2015, residents complained about trees being removed as a tunnel was being built to connect portions of the retirement community.
The Hall County Tax Assessors Office recalled a similar situation at another older adults community, Village at Deaton Creek in South Hall, where road work had taken place and “resales of some of the homes were around 5 percent less (than the original price),” Deputy Chief Appraiser Kelly McCormick said.
Tax assessors followed form and reduced property values by about 5 percent at Cresswind. But then “we had sales come through that demonstrated they were selling for more than what we adjusted the properties at,” Chief Appraiser Steve Watson said.
“You think, ‘I’m supposed to have fair market value on my property,’” he said. “Well ... we’re constantly chasing that.”
Certainly, perception of housing values is huge, as shown in recent months with rising resident concerns about the financial impacts of certain developments.
The issue swirled last fall in the debate over Mincey Marble’s eventually successful push to rezone property on Browns Bridge Road and build a manufacturing plant.
It has been a big concern in the long-range plans to widen Martin Road, becoming a heated topic in recent months. The Georgia Department of Transportation expects to put out bids this year on a planned new Interstate 985 interchange in South Hall.
And lower property values are a key concern in an issue set to go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners this week: the proposed rezoning of property for a residential rehabilitation program for women fleeing sex trafficking.
Straight Street Revolution Ministries of Gainesville is seeking to build the campus on 50 acres off Weaver Road, a hilly area off Poplar Springs Road in southeast Hall County.
“Some real estate agents have suggested there would be a 25 percent hit in property values, which is huge,” said Janet Buttram, a local resident and retired real estate agent.
“The thing I’m more worried about is that (surrounding) houses will become stigmatized, and that would happen more through real estate agents. ... (Agents) aren’t even going to attempt to show (a house) after several (failed) attempts.”
The impact of a particular development or land change can’t be determined until “there are sales in that area,” Watson said.
However, closer predictions can be made on similar, past developments.
For example, a development similar to Straight Street’s plans is Eagle Ranch, a highly acclaimed, Christian-based South Hall residential program for teens having problems at home and school.
As the issue went before county officials in April 1983, property owners showed up at meetings not so much in opposition but asking questions about road safety, water supply, sewage disposal and how the money to operate Eagle Ranch would be raised.
At the time, few residential developments surrounded Eagle Ranch, but since its approval, housing growth has sprung up all around it.
“Village at Deaton Creek is right there (next to Eagle Ranch), and they co-exist fine,” Watson said.
Buttram sees a big difference between Eagle Ranch versus Straight Street’s proposal.
“It’s not like (Eagle Ranch) imposed themselves on a neighborhood,” she said. “It’s more like the neighborhoods imposed themselves (over time) on Eagle Ranch.”
Real estate watcher Frank Norton Jr., president and CEO of The Norton Agency in Gainesville, said he believes that if Straight Street’s plans are approved — the Hall County Planning Commission has recommended denial — “I don’t see property values being affected quantitatively.”
“I think (the effects) are psychological, not numerical,” he said. “I think there’s always a fear of the unknown.”
He said he talked with one couple worried their retirement home’s value would be hurt by a flood of retirement homes on the Hall County market.
“I looked at them and said, ‘Are you planning to sell tomorrow?’” Norton said.
When the couple said they weren’t, Norton’s reply was, “Well then, why are you worried about it?”
He did say there are certain developments that could adversely affect property values.
“A chicken house does. A large poultry operation has some effect if you’re downwind that day,” Norton said. “Heavy traffic, overloading a school system might affect values ... But a quality built development? I don’t see it.”
According to a 2014 U.S. News & World Report article, the main factors affecting home values are a home’s location, its size and location, age and condition, renovations and negative events, such as mold or fire.
“Location includes factors such as the price of recent nearby transactions, the quality of local schools and whether the area has a strong sense of community,” the report states.
Buttram has her vision for the Straight Street property how should be developed.
“There’s very few equestrian subdivisions in Hall County,” she said. “There’s enough property out there to get seven or eight nice homes on it, where they could have 5 acres or so and keep a horse.
“That would keep with the neighborhood, I think,” Buttram said.