Residents voice concern over massive home-building plan

Panel, developer to work on alternatives

Posted: Wednesday, November 23, 2005

About 200 people filed into the Evans Government Center Auditorium on Thursday to express their views on three items during a four-hour meeting before the Columbia County Planning Commission.

First, plans to rezone land for a massive second phase of Riverwood Plantation in the Greenbrier district were tabled again and will be taken up when the commission reconvenes Dec. 1.

Included in the amended plan for the 1,500-acre planned unit development are more than 3,100 new home sites including apartments, townhomes and free-standing subdivisions. Developers also are planning for a grocery store and additional retail or professional office space.

"We feel like we've been engulfed by Riverwood Plantation and haven't had time to digest it (the plan)," said Jace Cardenaz, a resident of Windmill Plantation.

The development, called Riverwood Plantation West, is divided into two sections: one south of Windmill Plantation and bordered by William Few Parkway and Clanton Road, and a second one west of Windmill Plantation and Greenbrier High School and bisected by Washington and Old Washington roads.

Several residents of neighboring subdivisions expressed concerns about the proposal's density and its effect on existing infrastructure, stormwater runoff, wildlife and traffic.

The rezoning of Riverwood Plantation West was first read before the planning commission Oct. 20 and was tabled because of concerns about inconsistencies with code, the additional commercial development, the lack of land set aside for schools and inadequate buffers to existing development.

Developer Wayne Millar and Columbia County Planning and Development staff have been working to remedy those concerns, including reducing the average density of the development and identifying land for new school construction.

"I think the public's comments were well-made, well-intended, and I think we're headed in a positive direction," Millar said. "I hope at the next planning meeting to (show) a plan that will meet with everyone's approval."

Later, commissioners unanimously rejected a request to rezone a 4.57-acre parcel of land on Owens Road where Evans Christian School officials hoped to build a new facility for the school's 110 pupils. Owens Road residents, pupils' parents and school staff were at odds concerning the effect the school would have on nearby neighborhoods.

Jeff Browning, the director of the county's planning and development department, said the school would not conform to the existing residential development on Owens Road.

After a 12-minute computer presentation and some verbal sparing between Richmond County developer Charles Dunston Jr. and Lake Royal and Belair Commons residents, planning commissioners voted 3-2 to reject Dunston's planned unit development request for 36 acres bordering Old Belair Road, Old Belair Lane and Interstate 20.

Dunston's development called for 186 houses at lot sizes between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet. Commissioners voted it down after Dunston refused to increase the minimum lot sizes to conform to nearby development.

In other planning commission business, a planned unit development rezoning was granted for 382 acres between Hereford Farm and Old Belair roads that will become Crawford Creek, a mixed-density residential development with almost 800 units planned.



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