A new study shows that Columbia County residents often travel beyond the county's borders to meet their shopping needs.
Despite the addition of such big-box retail establishments as Target, Home Depot and Lowe's in recent years, 93 percent of those responding to a retail shopping survey conducted this year by the county officials showed the new stores aren't enough.
About 1,000 county residents took the survey, which was first offered in August. The results were released during a county Planning Commission meeting last week.
In a ranking of what new retail stores residents want most, a bookstore was first, followed by Hobby Lobby, Costco, Bass Pro Shop, TJ Maxx, Belk's, an outlet mall, Best Buy, Michael's, Macy's, Dillards, Fresh Market, Old Navy, Pottery Barn and others.
Favorite stores in the county among the survey respondents were Target, Kohl's and Walmart, which respectively held the top three spots in a different ranking. Others included on that list were Marshall's, Academy Sports, Lowe's, Ross, Publix, Home Depot and Kroger.
Restaurants survey takers would like to see open in the county included Olive Garden, Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Steak and Shake, Bonefish and Captain D's.
The survey included an area for respondents to make comments, but only a few were presented during the Thursday meeting.
Listed in the comments were residents asking for a Costco, an "outside walking market" and an aquatic center.
"I resent having to go 'to the other side' in Augusta for shopping needs," a survey taker wrote. "I would rather place the money in Columbia County.
"It would be wonderful if the retailers would create a 'town square' type of shopping area where there are outside cafes and lots of stores/restaurants that create a community meeting place."
County Development Services Director Richard Harmon called the survey a "positive" opportunity to bring in businesses wanted by shoppers.
Commission Chairman Ron Cross, who attended the meeting, said afterward that county officials should be more flexible in their interpretation of the Growth Management Plan and county ordinances to make such retail establishments available to residents.
"There are some county ordinances that need to be revised to get people spending in the county," he said.
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