Columbia County plans to purchase the field across from the Evans Government Complex. Doctors Hospital owns the site, where many county events, including the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration, have been held.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbia County officials and developers say a recent push by county commissioners to purchase a large open field in the Evans Town Center will be good for future development and county events.
"I think it would allow us to have more activities that will be patronized," said Barry Smith, the county's director of community and leisure services.
The nearly 20-acre site in question is currently owned by Doctors Hospital and is located behind the Evans Kroger off Washington Road near the Evans Government Complex.
The hospital often allows the county to use the property for county events, including the Red, White and Blue Veterans Celebration and a fire safety event called Fire Fest. Children also have used the property to fly kites and play football.
Ron Cross, the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, said that while on an Atlanta planning trip Nov. 5 his counterparts on the board agreed that a purchase of the land was needed, even if it meant condemnation, because Doctors is considering building on the site.
"It was definite,'' Cross said of the possibility of the hospital developing the land.
Cross said the site was too important to the future of the county and its residents to allow that to happen.
"It's basically the center of the Evans Town Center, and it really should be preserved for the citizens,'' he said, adding that he would like the property to remain as open space for some type of public use to be determined later.
Cross said that although county commissioners are prepared to seek condemnation, Doctors Chief Operating Officer Shayne George told him in a phone call that the hospital would be willing to work with the county on a sale.
Cross said George and county commissioners are planning to meet on the subject after Thanksgiving.
"We're not threatening anybody," Cross said. "We just feel it's in the best interest of the county to maintain that property for public use. If it came to it, we're willing to pursue condemnation to maintain the property for public use, but again they were very cooperative, and I think we'll put together some type of agreement."
Cross said the value of the property is probably about $4.5 million, or $230,000 an acre. Whether condemnation is involved or not, the hospital would be paid an assessment of the property's value. Condemnation simply forces such a sale to occur.
Don Lawrence, a developer overseeing a nearby planned project called Marshall Square off North Belair Road, said he thinks the idea of a county purchase will only help the Marshall Square idea. That development is designed to provide both retail and residential offerings.
"A lot of people have told me they would like to see it remain as open space," Lawrence said. "People could go to events there and then go over to restaurants and the shops (at Marshall Square) ... Absolutely, I think that's a great thing.''
George was out of town and was unable to be contacted Thursday morning.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.