In a quiet corner of southwest Bartow County lies a cotton field at the center of a rezoning debate set to be heard Monday night before the Planning Commission.
Skylift LLC is requesting a conditional use permit for 209 acres on Collum Road to allow for the operation of a skydiving center.
But area residents, like 81-year-old Gene Cantrell, have concerns about the possibility.
“I been hearing about Polk County, about the one they got over there, about [landing in] trees … having parties and the law’s all the time having to go out there and quieten them down some,” Cantrell said. “My biggest concern, I guess, would be Mount Tabor Church, cause see they come out right out, right over the cemetery at the foot of the hill.
“If it is so good for the community and the county, why ain’t all the counties wanting it?”
Cantrell’s son-in-law, Johnny Payne, said other issues include public safety and noise pollution among others.
“What about the traffic? What about 911, fire and rescue getting in and out of here? Where are the nearest hospitals?” he said. “… We’re losing property, agricultural and greenspace, for entertainment purposes. Bartow County can’t afford to entertain everything that comes by. And I’m going to ask the board, what kind of taxes are they expecting from this?
“… The noise impact is going to affect thousands of people in this community. It is proven that you learn to tune out the world when you have a lot of noise. We can’t sit out here and enjoy our property in the afternoons and the weekends as we do now. … Can you appreciate the noise impact we are going to have out here? It’s a seven-day-a-week operation and their hours are from dawn to dusk — that’s on their site.”
Skylift managing partner Cary Quattrocchi said the Bartow facility would be comparable to the center located in neighboring Polk County.
“The amount of traffic you get at a facility like this would be roughly innocuous to what happens in Cedartown, Georgia. … That is relatively minimal traffic,” he said. “The impact to the community is almost non-existent from the standpoint that, some businesses might come in and have a significant traffic impact or a change in the way a county might operate, but we’re not a Wal-Mart. We don’t attract those kinds of customers in terms of numbers. The number of customers you might expect on the busiest day in a midsummer weekend is, you know, 100.”
A change in the type of aircraft used for skydiving — a turbine aircraft versus piston — has lowered the noise levels associated with such centers.
“I don’t think noise is going to be a legitimate concern as it relates to these planes flying overhead. We’re not bringing in a metropolitan airport where you’ve got hundreds of planes. We’ll operate one or two planes. Some days might have two flights,” Quattrocchi said.
The center’s proposed location on a narrow, curvy road leads Payne to believe accidents may increase, driving up the demand for emergency services.
“You came down this road. I meet a bus every morning. My wife and I have to pull over,” he said. “… This place is not going to be supported by this community, and I’m not talking about yay or nay. I’m talking about supporting this facility.”
For Skylift, though, the remote location is necessary, even ideal. The property is flat and outside Federal Aviation Administration class B airspace.
“Off the beaten path is typical for a skydiving center. … You have to be outside class B airspace to operate a skydiving center effectively. … Therefore, the FAA has given us the rubber stamp,” Quattrocchi said. “Bartow County is beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful. What we wanted was an area where people would want to come. Our idea isn’t that people just come out to make a jump and then they leave. The idea is that they’ll like being in the community that they associate this facility with.”
When Cantrell bought his first five acres in 1958, he hoped to have a place to leave his children.
“Hopefully they will have a place to live when I am gone,” he said. “Something like this burns.”
Quattrocchi said residents shouldn’t notice the facility as much as they expect to, and Skylift will work with the community, addressing concerns as they arise.
“We don’t want to come here and say we’re here to operate regardless of your wants or needs. We’re open to listening to your concerns and doing whatever we can to address those concerns,” he said.
Payne and others organized petitions against Skylift’s requested special use permit. With more than 200 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, copies are available at the Ace Hardware on West Avenue, which is owned by Payne.
“We understand the room will hold 50 people. We’re hoping to have 50 people outside, plus the 50 inside,” Payne said. “… People don’t get involved until it concerns them.”
Also on the commission’s agenda are:
• A conditional use permit for 47 acres on Spring Place Road for the construction of six poultry houses.
• A rezoning from A-1 to R-1 for a 1.32-acre lot on Knucklesville Road to allow for construction of a single-family home.
• An amendment to Zoning Ordinance A-2032.
The commission meets Monday at 6 p.m. in the Zoning Hearing Room at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center.