Did you notice, in the Health Department inspections reported in our sister
paper the other day, that Augusta's Rhinehart's Oyster Bar got a 91?
Remember, that's in the diner's old building in Augusta, the one that looks
like a dilapidated, 1940s shack (which part of it is).
Meanwhile, land is being cleared on Belair Road at Owens road for Columbia
County's version of Rhinehart's. Some of the people opposing it claimed the
existing Rhinehart's is nasty and that, by extension, so would the Columbia
Sure, cleanliness was a side issue. Mostly the opponents were against
Rhinehart's because they're against alcohol sales, period, or because they
don't want the business next to their neighborhood. The former argument
pretty much died more than a decade ago when a majority of voters in
Columbia County approved alcohol sales; the latter argument fizzled when the
Georgia Department of Transportation turned Belair into a five-lane. Back to
those health-department scores. A neighborhood restaurant just down the
street from the new Rhinehart's, Lotus, scored lower than the existing
Rhinehart's. But Lotus sells alcohol, so maybe that's why, right?
Well, look at another big seafood restaurant in Columbia County, one that
doesn't sell alcohol: T.J. Out-rigger's at Pollard's Corner. Health
inspectors scored its kitchen lower than the existing Rhinehart's, too.
All of these kitchens pass inspections, and there would be no inspections
without standards that we expect businesses to follow. There also are
standards that govern what a business must do to open, and Rhinehart's met
those standards, too.
The owners originally tried to get the rules bent to allow them to get an
alcohol license, and we opposed it. We believe in sticking to the rules.
When they invested in more land to bring the site into compliance with
alcohol laws, they deserved to be granted a license - and were. The land is
now being cleared, and the seafood restaurant should open later this year.
And speaking of seafood, residents around the proposed Kroger-anchored
shopping center near Furys Ferry Road smell something fishy. Those residents
won a minor victory when they kept the development to a reasonable size, but
the county then proposed changes to the growth management plan that would
allow a bigger store anyway.
This smells an awful lot like bending the rules, or at least rewriting them.
The group fighting the bigger-box store certainly thinks so, but in this
case they're also working to educate themselves and other citizens on how
this process works.
The multi-neighborhood coalition called CHANGE (the acronym is too long to
spell out) has set up a seminar with county planning officials for 6-9 p.m.
next Wednesday at the Government Complex Auditorium in Evans. The idea is to
give county officials a chance to explain zoning laws, and provide an
opportunity for citizens to learn how it all works.
Change is hard, but it's much easier to live with if we understand what's
going on. Next Wednesday's seminar could be a good start.
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