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Old June 6th, 2005, 03:43 PM   #1
MarcusJY
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Where Macon meets Atlanta

http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/2005/...s/11818093.htm


Posted on Sun, Jun. 05, 2005





People fleeing Atlanta's southern sprawl finding homes in Monroe

By Chuck Thompson

Telegraph Staff Writer


Tracey Ivey has never been so happy to do the laundry.

Nearly three weeks after moving into her new house in north Monroe County, her new washer and dryer were finally delivered and installed the day before.

"Ignore that pile of clothes," she said Thursday as she began to lead a tour of the three-story red brick home she shares with husband, Jason, daughter Payton, 5, and son Chase, 3. "We were about to run out of clean clothes. I'll be washing all weekend."

It's a chore she must complete, said Tracey, who took time off to settle into the new house. Monday she goes back to work, joining the growing number of people, including her husband, who live in Monroe County and drive to work in Atlanta and the communities around its southern perimeter.

The Iveys left their Henry County home, opting for longer commutes - in miles though not necessarily in time - to escape the traffic and congestion of Atlanta's southern sprawl.

New upscale subdivisions being developed in north Monroe County are drawing many of the newcomers. Others, including the Iveys, are opting to buy 5- to 10-acre parcels of former farm and timber land along the rural roads in the area.

Many of those moving south are coming from Henry, Clayton, Fayette and Spalding counties.

"Twenty, 30 years ago, that's where people were moving to get out of Atlanta. But now those counties have filled up, so they are coming on this way," said Forsyth Mayor Jimmy Pace, who owns a real estate company.

Finding tranquility

Lower taxes, rural tranquility and the amenities of the new subdivisions being developed there are other draws to north Monroe, say those moving south.

The Iveys lived off Ga. 81 east of McDonough before moving about 25 miles south. They bought five acres on Johnstonville Road, 1.4 miles east of Interstate 75 exit 193, and five miles north of Forsyth.

Tracey is a loan officer for Metro Atlanta Mortgage Co. and splits time between its offices in McDonough and Stockbridge. Jason works for UPS in Forest Park.

"We didn't have as far to go (to get to work before moving), but we had to go through the McDonough square to get anywhere, so traffic was always a problem. Now we're two minutes from the interstate," Jason said.

They've each added about 30 minutes to their drives to work, which is now about 55 minutes for Jason and 45 for Tracey. But the extra commute time is worth it, they say.

"It's so quiet and peaceful here, and everybody seems to know everybody else," Jason said. "We wanted room for the kids to play."

Wayne Swafford and his wife, Michele, also recently moved to north Monroe from Griffin. They had a new home built on the golf course at River Forest, one of the swanky new subdivisions being developed. It is on Johnstonville Road, less than a mile east of I-75.

"We grew up in East Point and College Park, then moved to Griffin about 30 years ago," Wayne said. "We keep going south."

The move has added 25 miles to his commute, said Wayne, who works for Delta Airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. "But it doesn't take any longer to drive. We were about 10 miles off I-75 from the Ga. 16 exit. Traffic was so bad it ate up the time it takes me to drive on down here."

His wife, Michele, has more of a commute now, because she still works for a bank in Griffin. But Wayne said they plan to retire in four or five years, so it won't be a long-term hardship.

"We were looking for quality of life and to get away from the congestion around Griffin," he said. "We had 33 acres there and have gone down to one acre here, but it had grown up so much around us in Griffin that we really weren't living in the country anymore. Plus we're on a golf course now, and that's something I wanted."

Wanting a more tranquil life in retirement also drew Tommy and Angelia Wright to River Forest from Jonesboro, although they haven't both retired.

"I worked for the Jonesboro Police Department and retired 18 months ago," Tommy said. "My wife is an elementary school principal in Jonesboro. She was going to retire this year but has decided to go back at least for next year. It takes her about 35, 40 minutes to drive up there.

"Our home was paid for in Jonesboro. We'd been there 30 years, but it was time to move. There's just been a lot of changes in the Clayton County, Jonesboro area in recent years, a lot of things in disarray. The traffic and congestion have gotten awful. So we looked around a good while and decided on this new development. We enjoy it. It's quiet, everything's first-rate. We think we're really going to like it here."

Mike and Karen Leverett migrated a bit farther to relocate to River Forest, moving from Brookhaven in north Atlanta, but commuting isn't a concern. Mike is a consultant who works out of his home, and Karen doesn't work.

"Since I don't have to go into an office anymore, there was no reason to stay in Atlanta," Leverett said. "I grew up in Lamar County (Monroe's neighbor to the west), so I wanted to get back to this area. My wife wanted to be in a subdivision rather than out in the country, so this gives us a subdivision but still in a rural area. There are good public and private schools in the area. And we're still close enough to Atlanta that it's convenient to go there to shop or go to a show or game, and when I have to travel it's easier to get to the airport from here than it was from north Atlanta."

A history of commuting

People living in Monroe County and working elsewhere is not new.

For many years, a sizeable portion of the county's residents have worked in Macon or Warner Robins to the south. As north Macon has grown, southern Monroe County has become ever more popular with builders and developers. And since the opening of I-75 in the 1960s, there have been some who have used it to commute to Atlanta to work.

But the growth has really boomed in the last 15 years. According to the 2000 U.S. census, Monroe's population grew by 27 percent in the 1990s. And the growth has continued by an estimated seven percent in the last five years, according to Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce President Pam Christopher, to more than 23,000 people.

Mayor Pace said the latest figures he saw indicate that 60 percent of Monroe's residents work outside the county. "And if they ever get the commuter rail system between Atlanta and Macon running, it'll jump even higher," he said.

Not everyone is happy with the county's growth, say County Commissioner Jim Peters and real estate agent Kerri Swearingen, who is also a member of the Monroe Development Authority.

"There are some who have been here all their lives who would like to see Monroe remain a rural county with farms and big timber tracts," Swearingen said. "But the growth has created a lot of work, construction jobs and such, and it is increasing property values."

Peters, a dairy farmer who represents the northern part of the county, said land prices have doubled or tripled in that area in the last three years.

"It depends on where the land is. If it's on a main road and close to water lines, it's up to $10,000 an acre or more. In more remote places, it's $4,000 or $5,000," he said. "And you can still buy bigger tracts for less (per acre) than smaller tracts."

Ivey said he and his wife paid $14,000 an acre for their land on Johnstonville Road, just more than a mile from I-75, six months ago, and that he's heard it's gone up $4,000 an acre since then.

"I'm glad we found this and bought when we did," he said.

Peters says that although some don't like the growth, they know it's coming, and it is up to county leaders to be sure it is positive growth.

"It's coming, we can't stop it. We want to control it as much as we can, get some nice houses and bigger lots. That's what we want," he said.

He led an effort last summer to put in a 90-day moratorium on new subdivisions in north Monroe so that new ordinances could be adopted to better control what is built.

Lots in new subdivisions must be at least an acre, roads must be up to county standards and those with lots of 1 acres or less must include gutters and curbs on their roads. And if they are within a mile of a county water line, the developers must put water lines in the subdivision.

"I think we've tweaked it down pretty good," Peters said. "We've still got some zoning issues to work on, but we're on track."

Monroe County and Forsyth have also joined together to hire the first full-time building inspector either has ever had to handle building permits and inspections.

"That's giving us a lot more control and should make it easier to keep up with what builders and developers want to do," Pace said.

The ordinances have not scared off developers, especially those who had been doing business in the counties just south of Atlanta.

"A lot of developers and builders here in Henry County are looking to Monroe County for future projects," said Eddie Duffey of Henco Development Co., which is building Greystone, a new upscale subdivision off Ga. 42 a mile south of the Butts County-Monroe County line.

Location spurs growth

Duffey said having I-75 bisect Monroe County makes it more attractive to commuters than surrounding counties that are farther from the interstate. And he said developers are skipping over Butts County, which is between Henry and Monroe, because land is more expensive there and building ordinances are more restrictive.

"What they've adopted in Monroe are things we can live with - we're more than matching their requirements," Duffey said. "Things have gotten so bad with zoning and permits in Henry County, you can't do anything. It takes six months or more to get a permit. This (Monroe) is where we're going to focus now. It's like going from hell to the land of 'Leave It to Beaver.' "

Greystone and River Forest are among nearly 10 new subdivisions in north Monroe that have been built in the last three years or are in the works, Peters said.

River Forest, with its golf course and equestrian center, is at the high end of the scale. Lots are $60,000 to $100,000, and homes being built there range from about $300,000 to more than $1 million, Swearingen said. "And most of them are in the $500,000 to $700,000 range," she said.

Ron Isbell, sales manager at River Forest, said 500 of the 670 lots have been sold. He said about 70 percent of those buying there are from Atlanta or the counties just south of it.

"But we have some people from Macon buying up here, too, and some from within Monroe County," he said.

Swearingen said homes in most of the other new subdivisions range from $200,000 to $450,000. Peters said the low end has been Lake View at High Falls, with houses for $100,000 to $150,000.

"But those are mostly half-acre lots, since that development began before we could get the new ordinances in," he said. "They're still nice houses."

And all over Monroe County, homes and land are selling.

"In 2004, we issued 329 building permits for $50 million in homes," said County Commission Chairman Harold Carlisle. "We're growing on both ends of the county."

And Forsyth, in the middle, has recently annexed three tracts for new subdivisions there, Pace said.

"I have several friends from Henry County who are looking for a place down here," Ivey said. "Everybody wants to get out of there, and this is the place to come."

Leverett said he's always heard that Atlanta and Macon would meet someday. He believes that time has arrived.

"And Monroe County is where Atlanta and Macon meet," he said.
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Old June 6th, 2005, 04:24 PM   #2
teshadoh
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People fleeing Atlanta's southern sprawl finding homes in Monroe

Correction, people are expanding Atlanta's southern sprawl to Monroe. That's sad, but not surprising...
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Old June 6th, 2005, 04:39 PM   #3
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That is true, but I guess the titled it like that because they said they are skipping Butts county, which was the only county separating the 2 metro areas:


"Duffey said having I-75 bisect Monroe County makes it more attractive to commuters than surrounding counties that are farther from the interstate. And he said developers are skipping over Butts County, which is between Henry and Monroe, because land is more expensive there and building ordinances are more restrictive."
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Old June 6th, 2005, 05:50 PM   #4
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^ Good point, Butts County is unusual in that it was established as a metro county in 1980, removed in 1990 b/c the criteria for MSA changed & there was not enough growth / commuting but reestablished in 2000. But you are right - growth has been slow for Butts, or people just don't want to live in a county named Butts
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Old June 6th, 2005, 11:29 PM   #5
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Who wants to be a Butt head?
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Old June 7th, 2005, 03:00 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBrad
or people just don't want to live in a county named Butts
Well, they flock to Cumming...
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Old June 7th, 2005, 08:26 AM   #7
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A disappointment to read...it's ashamed we have moved so far out to experience the tranquility. I believe cities should be strongly encouraged to move "up," and not "out." They should be rewarded for this concept. Many sprawl cities accross America thrive on expansion, growth, arrogance, money, and wide concrete roads. Many metro areas are poorly planned, especially in a city like Atlanta. Leaders and decision makers seem to have a blatant disregard for nature and the environment through this sprawl expansion. We are creating problems with so many of us existing on this planet and, especially, living in this country. People seem to forget that through our expansion, like this, and with such a blatant disregard for our natural surroundings and local habitat that we are creating problems for our children and grandchildren to solve. Sad, sad.....so many refuse to look at the big picture. I love Atlanta, and visit there often, but, it is one of the most expansive cities that, simply, doesn't, and refuses to give nature the respect that it deserves. For cities such as Atlanta, regard for nature and surroundings comes last and taste for $$$ comes first. For me, it's a very disappointing approach to life in general. But, hey, it's America, so what should we expect???
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Old June 8th, 2005, 12:46 AM   #8
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I just cannot understand how someone can expect to have the amenities and salaries of a big city like Atlanta, but think they can also have 10 rural acres to come home to just to mellow out.

Either take urbanness with all its pluses and minuses or live in the country, with all its pluses and minuses, but don't try to do both. You don't ever hear about farmers who leave their farms after a hard day in the fields heading back to their condos on Manhattan's Upper West Side!!
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Old June 8th, 2005, 01:29 AM   #9
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You know, I wonder how many people who live in the Atlanta Metro actually visit Atlanta or use it for something (shopping, work, medical, etc.) or just live there in the metro counties because land is cheap.

Some people may just move here for a cheap home and not for access to ATL or one of it's core suburbs.
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Old June 8th, 2005, 04:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick in Atlanta
I just cannot understand how someone can expect to have the amenities and salaries of a big city like Atlanta, but think they can also have 10 rural acres to come home to just to mellow out.

Either take urbanness with all its pluses and minuses or live in the country, with all its pluses and minuses, but don't try to do both. You don't ever hear about farmers who leave their farms after a hard day in the fields heading back to their condos on Manhattan's Upper West Side!!
but thats just it. they want to have their cake AND EAT IT TOO. and why not? Plenty of land, they can work in Atlanta, and as long as they don't mind the commute, have 4 or 5 acres to go home too
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Old June 8th, 2005, 04:32 AM   #11
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Make roads pay for themselves and the rest will solve itself.
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Old June 8th, 2005, 04:52 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nakedyak
but thats just it. they want to have their cake AND EAT IT TOO. and why not? Plenty of land, they can work in Atlanta, and as long as they don't mind the commute, have 4 or 5 acres to go home too
Why not? Pretty soon they'll be enough of these people that they'll need two hours to get to work, and their 4 or 5 acre lots will be bought up by developers who will build 16-20 homes on that land and the original landowner will buy another 4 or 5 acres 20 miles further out. Brilliant Plan!! NOT!!!
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Old June 8th, 2005, 11:55 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AubieTurtle
Make roads pay for themselves and the rest will solve itself.
I would like to bring the Mormann Choir in to sing Hallallaulliaillaiilaiillia
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Old December 21st, 2005, 07:29 PM   #14
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no!!!!!!!!!! Macon may be swallowed up by asslanta! i love atlanta and all but i dont want to get to personal lol
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Old December 21st, 2005, 07:36 PM   #15
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cant wait for that area to get congested.

where will that family live then ?!
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Old December 21st, 2005, 11:33 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by macon4ever
no!!!!!!!!!! Macon may be swallowed up by asslanta! i love atlanta and all but i dont want to get to personal lol
I can see Macon becoming part of the ATL metro in 50 years if not sooner. Atlanta-Macon metro area...just like Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami-Ft Lauderdale or Minneapolis-St. Paul.
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Old December 22nd, 2005, 01:21 AM   #17
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Macon's 76 miles from Atlanta, though. o____O
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Old December 22nd, 2005, 02:10 AM   #18
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Macon's 76 miles from Atlanta, though. o____O
That's only twenty miles more than the distance from Atlanta to Dawsonville where several coworkers at my last company lived.
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Old December 22nd, 2005, 02:15 AM   #19
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I hopefully won't be around here when Atlanta - Macon would become a reality.
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Old December 22nd, 2005, 02:55 PM   #20
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I mean Macon has an identity where it is quiet and has southern charm. ATL sucks all that away and makes it into a big city that is congested and faster paced. Most people dont want that around there homes.
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