Want to know a good working definition of 'smart'?
Frank Mullins could probably tell you. The Columbia County developer, who wants to lure Target to a 450,000 square-foot Evans shopping center, took a walk across the street before his rezoning request went to the county.
'Across the street,' in this case, is to Brandon Wilde, a retirement community whose active citizens are ever-ready to make their voices heard. Many will remember how, six years ago, the residents of Brandon Wilde rose up against a proposal from the state Department of Transportation to route River Watch Parkway through Mullins property on Washington Road.
The seniors feared that the expressway would link up with Owens Road right at the entrance of their community, creating significant traffic hazards. They were unified and vocal. State officials listened - and changed the route.
With that history in mind, Mullins went to Brandon Wilde's residents before taking his request for rezoning his 48 acres from residential to commercial. It was a smart move; Brandon Wilde official Julian Smith says the residents still have concerns about noise and traffic, but wont stand in the way of the countys biggest retail news since the Evans Wal-Mart.
The loss of residential property to commercial development is always a concern. Theres weakness in the countys growth plan if residential land has to be bulldozed for business.
But the Mullins property is near-perfect for the switch. Its on a stretch of Washington Road that is as un-residential as land in Columbia County gets.
Residents of the county, meanwhile, spend a lot of their money elsewhere. We have no illusions that every dime should be spent here, but more pennies could be if additional retail opportunities were within the countys borders.
County Administrator Steve Szablewski, for example, says Columbia County residents spend $630 million each year outside the county. Keeping a little more of that money at home would ease ever-increasing pressure on residential taxpayers, who bear far too heavy a share of the burden in our bedroom community.
County commissioners will soon have an opportunity to approve Mullins' request for zoning changes to lure a big retailer. The folks at Brandon Wilde deserve their noise and traffic protection - and beleaguered homeowners deserve some tax relief. This kind of smart development would be right on 'target.'
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