Rezoning request for Jones Creek clubhouse withdrawn, but residents still worried

The clubhouse at the Jones Creek golf club.
The clubhouse at the Jones Creek golf club.

Plans for the clubhouse at a defunct Columbia County golf course seem to have changed, but residents worry that the course's future still lies in the rough.

Homebuilder Mark Herbert this week withdrew his rezoning application for the building at 777 Jones Creek that once contained the Jones Creek Golf Club clubhouse and lounge.

After the course closed in 2018, Herbert's company MBH Holding bought the clubhouse separately and rented it to a catering business while the rest of the course fell into disuse and foreclosure as current course owner Julian Saul sought a buyer.

Herbert's initial request was to change the zoning designation of his property from Planned Unit Development to S-1 so it can be used only as “event, hospitality and meeting space; restaurant space; and catering space and kitchen.” Under that request, the building could not legally be permitted to operate as a golf clubhouse.

Background:Clubhouse and possible rezoning sits at center of Jones Creek golf course's future

Fail to sell:Jones Creek golf course fails to sell

That request was met with a wave of protest from Jones Creek residents eager to see the golf course refurbished. Past developers who have approached Saul and the Jones Creek Homeowner's Association have said that any plan to resurrect the golf course would have to include the centrally located clubhouse.

Herbert has since submitted a new rezoning request. Instead of changing the zoning to S-1, it's a request to make a minor change to the Planned Unit Development conditions. Legally, the new request does not have to be approved by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, only the county's Planning Commission, whose members are appointed and not chosen by voting citizens.

Herbert's requests coincide with a newly proffered deal from golf event services company Bond Golf Global to help rebuild the 48-year-old course into a “full-scale training facility” to open by September, partnering with veteran golf pro Darren May of golf development company Black Cat Athlete.

"The verbiage" of the new request "is exactly the same," said Tripp Nanney, president of the Jones Creek HOA. "Technically, it's net-neutral, but we think it's even tougher for us because of the fact that they can approve it without going to the people who are elected by us. It just doesn't feel right to us."

More than 100 people crowded the Feb. 2 Planning Commission meeting to oppose Herbert's rezoning request. The next meeting to consider Herbert's new request is scheduled for Feb. 16.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Rezoning of clubhouse at Jones Creek remains in flux