About Us: Morgan Land, Sky & Water Preservation, Inc. and No2Rivian.org
Morgan Land, Sky & Water Preservation, Inc. is a group of concerned citizens committed to protecting our communities, our resources and our land. We are a diverse group, with a wide range of interests, political affiliations and philosophies who all share a common love and concern for the environment. Our goal is to encourage a common sense approach to growth that is economically prosperous, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.
The Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Newton, Morgan and Walton Counties (aka the “JDA”) collaborated with the State of Georgia to induce Rivian Automotive to build a massive (19.6 million square feet) assembly plant in Morgan and Walton Counties near the historic towns of Rutledge and Social Circle, GA. The State has since taken control of the project and plans to override the local zoning and permitting procedures, thus keeping the community in the dark and silencing their voices.
The purpose of this website is to provide information about how this transpired, what is being done to counter the attack on our environment and the negative impact to our communities.
Thank you for visiting!!!
OUR STORY SO FAR
HEAVY INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT IN PRISTINE MORGAN COUNTY
According to “Georgia’s Land: Its Use and Condition”, a report produced by the USDA every 5 years, Georgia farmland acreage declined by a third from 1982 to 2012. During that same 30 year timeframe, urbanized land more than doubled in Georgia.
One objective of this website is to expose how urbanization and industrialization are slowly chipping away at our rural areas, a couple thousand acres at a time, in the name of progress. And in many instances, the local communities have little (if any) control over the outcome.
Here are a few highlights of the story below:
The state is using $1.5 Billion of YOUR tax dollars to acquire land for the purpose of promoting a private industry (Rivian). Rivian will be exempt from paying property taxes for 25 years, shifting the financial burden of expanding and maintaining schools and infrastructure to YOU the taxpayers.
As part of the land acquisition process carried out on behalf of the state, the landowners were required to sign non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses. This prevents the landowners from speaking openly about the alleged intimidation tactics used to encourage them to sign the contracts.
The state has attempted to silence the large coalition of concerned citizens by removing the property from re-zoning rules and regulations. Effectively bypassing the process of determining the impact upon the safety and health of the local communities.
Existing zoning regulations prohibit “heavy industrial that would be objectionable by reason of producing obnoxious dust, air pollution, water pollution and noise.”
The Morgan County Comprehensive Plan expressly designates the 640 acres (that would be occupied by the plant in Morgan County) as “predominantly rural with low-density large lot residential homes”. This designation was put into place to ensure that no large development would occur in this environmentally sensitive area.
The Developments of Regional Impact (DRI) study, conducted by The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, determined the project would have a negative impact upon the environment and infrastructure.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In May of 2021, the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Newton, Morgan and Walton Counties (the “JDA”) acquired 665.7 acres of timberland in Walton County and Morgan County on the North side of I-20 for potential expansion of its Stanton Springs Business Park. The JDA had options on an additional 413.34 acres in Walton County. The property was marketed as a Mega Site, in line with the JDA’s mission to “provide large tracts of land suitable for the planned development of a mixed-use business park that provides new jobs and increases the tax base.” Stanton Springs internal zoning prohibits “heavy industrial that would be objectionable by reason of producing obnoxious dust, air pollution, water pollution and noise.”
THE STATE CAVES TO DEMANDS OF RIVIAN
Despite the limitations imposed by its own zoning, the JDA collaborated with the State of Georgia in its efforts to induce Rivian Automotive to locate an assembly plant on its Mega Site. At some point during the negotiations between the State and Rivian, Rivian expressed interest in the Mega Site, but demanded significant additional acreage to build out an ambitious site plan for its facility. In the Fall of 2021, the JDA, acting at the behest of the State, began negotiating options to purchase twenty-eight parcels of land in Morgan County to add to the existing Mega Site. All of the contracts contained non-disparagement and non-disclosure clauses to prevent landowners from speaking about the expansion.
AND THEN AN UNWANTED CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM KEMP
In December 2021, Governor Kemp announced that Rivian had selected the Mega Site in Walton County with additional acreage sprawling into Morgan County. The proposed project would encompass 1,978 acres, the largest development in the history of the State. The factory buildings would cover 19.6 million square feet. The negotiations with Rivian and the options on the Morgan County property were kept secret. Consequently, many Morgan County residents met the news of this giant plant with shock and dismay.
THE MORGAN COUNTY LAND USE PLAN WARNS AGAINST THIS
Notably, Morgan County’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (linked below) creates development priorities for the County for the area where the proposed plant would be sited. These priorities include protecting water resources and environmentally sensitive areas as well as promoting the preservation of the agricultural economy The Morgan County Comprehensive Plan expressly designates the 640 acres (that would be occupied by the plant in Morgan County) as “predominantly rural with low-density large lot residential homes” to ensure that no large development would occur in this environmentally sensitive area.
EVEN THE STATE SAYS THE ENVIRONMENT IS IN JEOPARDY
The site where Rivian intends to build would essentially pave over one of the County’s most important water recharge areas, as shown on the Sensitive Environmental Resource Map in the Comprehensive Plan. Because of the scale of the proposed development, Morgan County Commissioners initiated a request for review by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission under its authority to analyze proposed Developments of Regional Impact (DRI). The resulting report concludes “a plant of this size would negatively impact the groundwater recharge area by converting millions of square feet into impervious surfaces.” In addition, the plant will generate hazardous waste, including “paints, solvents, adhesives and batteries” It is expected that landfill space will be needed to accommodate at least 6700 tons of this toxic solid waste annually. It is concerning that these toxins could contaminate the Morgan County water supply since the site contains 29 acres of wetlands and an additional. 232 acres of wetlands are within one mile of the site. Adjoining farms and residences all rely on well water. Ninety-two percent of the proposed site lies within a “Conservation” area.
In addition, heavy truck traffic to and from the site can be expected. Current roads near the site in Morgan County are not designed for this impact. It is unclear how improvements and maintenance of County roads would be funded. Further strain on infrastructure would occur because the plant will require 4.7 million gallons of water per day and will generate 1.5 million gallons per day of sewage. The JDA’s attorney brought the Morgan County parcels to the Planning Department requesting 640 acres of fertile farmland, and large lot residential, to be re-zoned to industrial. The JDA intended to transfer this agricultural property to Tier One Zoning as an extension of Stanton Springs Business Park. As noted above, Stanton Springs prohibits heavy industrial facilities. In requesting the change, JDA’s attorney admitted that no site plan, no environmental plan and no traffic study had been done; however, after the re-zoning, such plans would be made available. The belated disclosure of the size and scope of the planned facility caused an outcry from the community, which was exacerbated by the JDA’s failure to provide the most basic information required for a rezoning application.
THE STATE TAKES OVER, ULTIMATELY SILENCING THE COMMUNITY
When it became apparent that the re-zoning application was likely to fail, the JDA appealed to the State to take the project over. The State announced that it would override the local zoning procedure and, instead, create Committees that would allegedly “hear” the voices of the community. And while we await recommendations from the Site Design and Environmental Committee, The Devastation Begins!
The citizens remain in the dark about the fate of their County and Communities.