The owners of land adjacent to an Evans shopping center stand to save thousands in property taxes next year, depending on the timing of a rezoning initiated last week by Columbia County commissioners.
Commissioners decided during a Tuesday meeting to rezone about 22 acres neighboring Mullins Crossing on Washington Road from commercial back to residential.
Officials said that an application approved in 2006 to rezone the land for commercial use was not signed by Robert Mullins, who is a partial owner of the property. Without the consent of all property owners, the rezoning could be invalid.
Mullins, the medical director for the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, was sent a letter last month by county attorney Doug Batchelor asking him if he was aware of the rezoning. Because he failed to respond, commissioners voted to initiate the rezoning and correct the error, and then to follow up by properly rezoning the land back to commercial.
County ordinances allow commissioners to initiate rezonings if they deem the land use improper.
That site once was meant to become a second phase for Mullins Crossing. Those plans were scrapped when Hobby Lobby, the intended anchor store for the second phase, opened a location in Augusta's Target shopping center.
The land is worth about $3.98 million as a commercial property. Prior to the 2006 rezoning, it was worth about $700,000, according to the county tax commissioner's office.
The county currently stands to collect more than $42,500 in property taxes on that land this year. In 2005, when it was residential property, the county collected only about $6,200 in property taxes.
Once the property is rezoned residential, Batchelor said commissioners then will initiate another rezoning process to switch it back to commercial.
But because that process won't conclude until next year, it likely would be too late to tax the property at the commercial zoning value until the following year, Batchelor said.
Also at the meeting, commissioners approved the first readings of ordinance revisions meant to discourage a strip-center design for new commercial developments.
The changes include widening the landscaped barrier between parking lots and roads, increasing the width of landscaped islands in parking lots, and limited the number of parking spaces allowed in such lots.
Commissioners also approved a $7,000 expense to install school zone signal flashers on Riverwood Parkway in front of Greenbrier Elementary School.
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