While developers and restaurateurs are excited at the possibilities provided by Owens Road, some residents of the road are less than enthusiastic.
"You can't stop progress," said H. Edward Stewart, 60, a 20-year resident of the 4300 block of Owens Road. "The businesses are going to come in. It's just a fact of life."
Like Stewart, 72-year-old J.L. McKinney, another multi-decade resident of Owens Road, also said he feels helpless in his wish to halt progress.
"It bothers me that (businesses are) coming this way because I had planned to live here the rest of my life, but I don't think anyone can stop it," he said. "They sure didn't stop Rhinehart's."
Citing traffic and noise concerns, residents of neighborhoods near the intersection of Owens and Belair roads attempted to block the granting of a liquor license by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to the owners of Rhinehart's Oyster Bar.
Despite a petition signed by 500 Idylwilde subdivision and Owens Road residents, commissioners said they had no legal grounds to deny the license.
Rhinehart's co-owner Amy Bailey said she plans to be open for business by Sept. 1.
"I'd rather have Applebee's or Fatz. Anything but Rhinehart's," Idylwilde resident Emily Henderson said. "Rhinehart's is a hangout. They're noisy. They have no standards. Their place on Washington Road is a complete eyesore. We were not happy about that."
But the group of residents perhaps most effected by the impending growth could be senior citizens living in the Brandon Wilde retirement community near the proposed Target shopping center.
They are largely unfazed by the retail expansion, said a Brandon Wilde executive.
"I'd say that our residents, staff and management are pleased that Columbia County is growing, and this will have a positive influence on the overall county," Brandon Wilde Vice-president Julian Smith said.
A 395,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by Target will be constructed across Washington Road from the retirement facility. Before seeking the zoning change for the center, developer Frank Mullins met with Brandon Wilde residents to discuss his project and explain county restrictions on lighting and appearance that the county will impose on him.
So long as retailers and developers create attractive storefronts and make efforts to keep noise levels down, Smith said the 425 residents of Brandon Wilde will be satisfied.
"We look forward to our new neighbors adhering closely to the Evans Township standards regarding the physical appearance of the property as well as sound and other characteristics," Smith said. "We look forward to working with all of our new neighbors in continuing to make this the best county in the state."
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