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Columbia County chamber's office plan opposed by neighborhood residents

Residents speak against Chamber headquarters

Posted: September 15, 2015 - 11:07pm
Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tammy Shepherd arranged a "listening session" to allow residents to voice concerns.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tammy Shepherd arranged a "listening session" to allow residents to voice concerns.

Columbia County Chamber of Commerce members got an earful Thursday night from residents of the Camelot subdivision who were upset over the organization’s plans to build a new headquarters at the neighborhood’s entrance on Washington Road.

Chamber President and CEO Tammy Shep­herd arranged a “listening session” and cookout Thursday to present the plans and allow residents to voice concerns.

The chamber bought a corner lot at the entrance of the Camelot neighborhood July 7 for $177,000. It hopes to rezone the property and tear down the existing home to allow for the construction of a 10,000-square-foot building for its future office space, Shepherd said. No rezoning application has been filed yet.

After a round of introductions, the chamber’s presentation quickly devolved into a platform for objections from the group of 10 residents unified in their opposition.

“One of the things that annoys everyone in this room is the fact that you are invading a neighborhood. Someone said that this would be a complement to this neighborhood; it is not a complement,” said Dennis Scheyer, who lives next door to the intended building site. “If you’ve ever been in that neighborhood, you will find older houses and mature shrubbery. You will not find a 1-acre paved parking lot with 56 parking places and a two-story office building.”

Scheyer said that since the plan was announced, several residents have talked about its implications and had decided to work against it.

“I’m pretty sure we can say we oppose this absolutely and completely,” he said.

Others raised concerns about increased traffic, stormwater runoff and encroachment from other property rezonings if the plan goes forward.

“We don’t want anything that is commercial or that smacks of commercial encroaching in our neighborhood,” Jean Baird said.
Shepherd said the chamber bought the land because it is quickly outgrowing its current space, which is being leased from the county development authority. She said the nonprofit group wants to remain in the heart of Evans, but the available commercial property is out of their price range.

Chamber board member Ed Burr told the residents that the professional rezoning is probably the best use for the lot, which had been unoccupied for more than a year and had been on the market for six months before it was sold. He said because of traffic and development along Washington Road, the property is likely to become a rental home, which would begin changing the neighborhood in ways residents would not like.
Shepherd said that after consulting with county officials, she was advised that a rezoning to professional use was the best transition for such properties and that there were precedents in other neighborhoods.

“We have numerous examples where this has already been done,” Shepherd said.

Camelot resident Loren Waldo urged his fellow residents to organize their efforts to oppose the process at any upcoming planning commission meetings.

“We need to come before that zoning committee with our lances and sabres and banners.” he said. “We don’t want that. We want it to stay as a residential subdivision. I hope you have a plan B.”

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CarolLily

We could set off a lot of

We could set off a lot of stuff that might probably be the answer to whatever it is that is helping us reach our goals. - Marla Ahlgrimm