Proposed Sumrall subdivision concerns residents

By HASKEL BURNS,

Although the proposal of a new 150-house subdivision adjacent to Sumrall Elementary School has given concerns to several residents, developers of the project say the neighborhood would increase the town’s tax base, bring in new residents and possibly attract new businesses.

A public hearing on the matter was held Tuesday evening at Sumrall Town Hall, where the Sumrall Planning Commission heard from developers Jeff Sims and Howard Walker of Magnolia Station, which has purchased the land on Todd Road on which to locate the subdivision.

The developers are in the process of requesting a zoning change on the land from I-2 (Industrial) to R1-A (Residential), which would allow the construction of the neighborhood.

“I want to start by easing a lot of minds about the rumors of it being a low-income or a Section 8 development; it is not, and this is in fact the total opposite,” Walker told the crowd of about 50 area residents. “I actually moved out of Oak Grove for the exact reasons that everybody in this room is concerned about, and I don’t want to see Sumrall turn into an Oak Grove either.

“The small-town feel and community is what attracted us to this area. I’m invested in Sumrall, I have three kids in the school district … and we want what is best for the community.”

To achieve that goal, developers are proposing homes with a minimum of 1,800 square feet and half-acre lots. The subdivision would be developed in a handful of phases over the course of the next 15 to 20 years, with the first phase of 50 lots expected to take about five years to complete.

Resident Terry Lucas said he was somewhat skeptical at the proposition of a new subdivision, as he is unsure of what benefits it would bring to Sumrall other than people moving into new homes.

“For the people that have lived here a long time, we’ve seen the subdivisions come in,” he said. “How many houses are in The Oaks and Crossland (subdivisions) - there’s 200 houses, maybe.

“Before those 200 houses were built, Sumrall is basically the same as it was. We’ve got a dollar store - well, we had a dollar store (before). We have a drugstore - we had a drugstore (before).”

But Sims said the subdivision would be a boon to the city as far as raising its tax base, among other benefits.

“It’s also going to bring some people to the city who are going to shop locally - all the local businesses will benefit from that,” he said. “And as you get some people in here in these homes, it allows you to attract other businesses to the city.

“That’s either expanding local businesses that are already here or attracting new businesses that aren’t here but may not come here with the current population base and the current tax base. It could get to the point where you could attract some substantial businesses, but you can’t attract those businesses without the people that are going to shop there. You also can’t attract industry-type businesses if you don’t have the housing infrastructure for the workforce.”

Some residents also brought up concerns about whether the city’s sewer and water system would be able to handle the increased load from the neighborhood, but Walker said the city is fully equipped for that issue.

“The sewage lagoon is already within the capacity to take it,” he said. “Then of course, there’s already city water, and we’re going to turn everything over to the city, so it would all be within the city limits and be incorporated. That way they’d have control of those roads (in the subdivision) and all that stuff.”

Developers said they plan to meet with officials from the Lamar County School District to discuss how Sumrall’s schools would handle the possible influx of students coming from the new subdivision.

“We have some meetings set up, but we haven’t spoken with them directly about that yet,” Sims said. “But we need to talk to the school about some of that, as well as address some of the traffic issues on Todd Road.”

The Sumrall Planning Commission is expected to soon make its recommendation on the matter to the Sumrall Board of Aldermen, who will discuss it at the regular board meeting next month.

“Sumrall has a tremendous opportunity to really grow and develop into something,” Sims said. “And the growth is coming - it’s going to happen whether it’s this subdivision or in the city limits or not.

“It’s already happening all around Sumrall, so I would say let it happen within the city limits so the city can control it and manage it. Let it be part of the city, because if not, it’s going to happen anyway, and you’re not going to have any control of it and it’s not going to benefit the city.”

 

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