Bob Cutting had simple advice for the county's Planning Commission last week as the board considered a move to reclassify the zoning rules at certain intersections.
"We've got a lovely county. Don't screw it up," said Cutting, who lives off Evans-to-Locks Road.
Other residents who live near the intersection of Evans-to-Locks and Furys Ferry roads showed up at a public hearing Thursday, urging the planning board to leave their area out of the new rules for the county's Growth Management Plan.
The board voted 4-1 to amend the management plan, which outlines how a dozen spots in the county chould be allowed to develop to allow for larger developments at certain intersections. The board also voted to hold off on designating what areas would be included in a new commercial center category, to gather more public comment.
The proposed designation would allow shopping center developments to be as large as 300,000 square feet, with the largest tenant up to 70,000 square feet.
When the amendment goes to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners on April 20, it will be without three intersections tagged for the new category. One was the Greenbrier Town Center off Washington Road, which would have had size restrictions under the reclassification.
Development sizes at the others - the Furys Ferry and Evans-to-Locks roads intersection and the area at Belair and Columbia roads - would have increased.
The two spots are considered neighborhood centers. That designation limits commercial development to 100,000 square feet and the largest tenant at 30,000 square feet.
Last year, developers asked to build a 85,000-square-foot shopping center there with a 62,000-square-foot Kroger grocery store. Though the store's size exceeded what was allowed, commissioners granted leeway because of larger nearby grocery stores and approved a 47,000-square-foot store.
An amendment to the zoning policy would allow Kroger to build the store it has wanted.
Vic Mills, the president of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corp., which is developing the center, said if the amendment is approved, he would stick with the original plans and not develop to the maximum the new rules would allow.
An amendment to the zoning policy would allow Kroger to build the store they have wanted, which is planned to include specialty foods targeting the nearby affluent neighborhoods.
"Some people feel if you restrict it enough that nothing will be built," said Vic Mills, the president of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial Corp., which has plans to develop the center. "That's no good for the area, it's no good for Columbia County. It's no good for the silent majority that wants to have good quality development nearby their home for shopping."
Mills said that if the amendment is approved he still would build the 85,000-square-foot center and 62,000-square-foot store and not try to develop to the maximum the new rules would allow.
Columbia County Planning Director Jeff Browning told residents at Thursday's meeting that the Furys Ferry and Evans-to-Locks intersection already is zoned to allow 300,000-square-feet of commercial development with or without the reclassification.
"We're not talking about a clean slate," he said.
Neighbors who had circulated flyers against the amendment said they also were concerned about how other properties at the intersection could develop under the proposed rules.
Developers of a 20-acre parcel across the street from Blanchard and Calhoun's land and adjacent to the Jones Creek subdivision also would be allowed to build a shopping center as large as 100,000 square feet with its own anchor tenant as large as 70,000 square feet, if the area fell under the classification.
Browning said there have been no site plans filed yet with the county for that property, which is owned by Wisconsin resident J. Kenneth Davidson.
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