Despite a disapproval by the Columbia County Planning Commission, a rezoning request to allow more parking space for Rhinehart's Oyster Bar on North Belair Road was approved Tuesday night by the county's full Board of Commissioners.
"Isn't this the best solution for this problem at Rhinehart's?'' Commission Chairman Ron Cross asked County Planning Director Jeff Browning, referring to the new restaurant's need for parking spaces.
Browning answered yes.
Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning for a small lot at 4493 Edwards Drive from residential to commercial. However, in August, the planning commission, which is appointed by the Board of Commissioners to make recommendations, voted against the rezoning 4-0, with Chairman Ron Thigpen absent from the meeting.
When Commissioner Steve Brown asked Tuesday night why the planning commission voted against the rezoning, Browning replied that two residents had criticized the rezoning at the meeting.
County officials say the new parking will not be accessible from Edwards Drive and will be accessed only from the Gibbs Road entrance of Rhinehart's.
In July, the Board of Commissioners approved a no-parking zone for Owens Road near North Belair Road to prevent overflow parking from Rhinehart's.
In other action at Tuesday night's meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to try to incorporate a city including the Evans-Martinez area and then consolidate it with the county government.
Grovetown and Harlem officials have said such a move would hurt them by landlocking their boundaries and possibly reducing the amount of local option sales tax they receive from the county. Some county commissioners, however, said that the move has nothing to do with a turf war and that it is for the betterment of the entire county.
Consolidation, commissioners say, will qualify the county for certain federal funds and about $5 million in franchise fees annually, money commissioners hope to use to pay on a bond issue that could fund needed flood control and transportation projects.
"The real benefit is beyond our term. ... If we become the population center of the region, we have to be consolidated,'' Cross said.
He said such a shift of population away from the Augusta area could be possible in the next 15 to 20 years.
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