Lon Purvis isn't upset about last week's rezoning delay about a proposed Kroger on Furys Ferry Road.
"I just think it gives more time for people to learn about it," said the homeowner who lives near the site at 3841 Evans-to-Locks Road. "It give me more time to talk to more people."
Purvis and dozens of his neighbors showed up to last week's Planning Commission meeting to speak in opposition to the project.
Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial Corp. has purchased about 14 acres at the intersection of Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks road and wants to build an 85,000-square-foot shopping center featuring a 62,000-square-foot Kroger grocery store.
For weeks, Purvis has walked to the houses around the site and informed neighbors about the looming development. He appeared at the commission's meeting with a petition containing more than 100 signatures of people opposing to the project.
"I think we're basically slowly turning into a Washington Road situation," he said to the board. "At some point, someone has to say 'no' to slow it down."
Most of the property already is zoned for commercial use, and Blanchard & Calhoun President Vic Mills has argued that the intersection is available for development.
"It's not a matter of 'Will it be developed?' It's going to be developed," said Mills, who lives in the Jones Creek subdivision less than a mile from the proposed site. "We think this offer is the absolute best long-term alternative."
The company's representatives said the center would include a brick facade, two retention ponds and natural buffers between 40 and 200 feet between the store and the surrounding residential areas.
"This is truly a neighborhood center," Mills said.
But many of the neighbors upset about the plan say they are worried about an increase in noise, water runoff and traffic.
Hours before Thursday's meeting, Blanchard & Calhoun submitted proposal updates that detailed traffic plans. The plan included a turn lane into the center when Furys Ferry Road is widened, which developers said would help keep traffic flowing.
Citing the last-minute plans, Planning Commissioners voted to table the issue and will hear opposition to the rezoning request at their Oct. 16 meeting. The Columbia County Board of Commissioners will have the final vote on the issue.
The developers want the county to rezone the area because the current zoning allows the largest tenant to be no larger than 35,000 square feet.
Lisa Ammonds, real-estate manager for the Kroger's Atlanta division, said the chain is looking to either expand or build three stores in the Augusta area at the 60,000-square-foot range.
"I can tell you that being restricted to 47,000 square feet is the wrong store from the day it's built," she said to the Planning Commission.
Columbia County Planning and Development Director Jeff Browning told commissioners that his recommendation was to treat the property with its prevailing C-1, or neighborhood commercial, zoning for the restrictions, such as signs and greenspace but allow for a 47,000-square-foot grocery space.
Several years ago, the county allowed a Bi-Lo that size farther south on Furys Ferry Road, even though it also was zoned in a neighborhood commercial area.
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