Marshall Square developers may back off after commission vote

Developers for the Marshall Square development might back off on building at the Evans site after the Columbia County Commission voted Tuesday night to reduce the number of residential units on the property.

 

The commission voted 4-0 to approve changes to the 2007 site plan with conditions set forth by the Columbia County Planning Commission at its April 16 meeting.

One of the conditions included eliminating one of seven four-story residential buildings from the project, reducing the number of apartments from 338 to 288.

County commissioners added Tuesday another condition to the 47-acre planned unit development further limiting the possible number of apartments. They reduced the density to 14 residential units per acre on the 13.5 acres designated for the apartment development.

That change would cut the number of apartments planned for the development to 182, said Miller-Valentine Group senior developer Bill Marsh, who was heading the property’s residential development.

Mr. Marsh called the commission’s decision a “complete defeat.”

“It makes the project completely infeasible,” he said. “Obviously, there’s 0 percent chance that we would proceed with what they approved.”

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said that the county’s ordinance for apartment zoning is set at 14 units per acre, and the commission was concerned about setting a different density precedent.

“We really didn’t want to create the precedent there and didn’t feel like that kind of density would be good in that location either,” he said.

Due to the current state of the economy, Mr. Marsh said that the whole project is on hold.

Without a significant number of residential units to help attract commercial establishments, he said Marshall Square likely won’t be worth pursuing.

“As a practical matter, there’s going to be a big mud hole sitting there because of this for a long time,” he said.

The vision for the development, Mr. Cross said, has been an “up-scale retail commercial center.” The commission never intended the development to become an apartment complex, he said.

“We’re ... limited in what we can enforce because it is private property, but the concept has just changed so much from what we endorsed in 2004,” he said. “There’s some real concerns that it’s going to deteriorate and not be anything the county can be proud of.”

Mr. Marsh said it’s too early for developers to decide the next step.

“We really haven’t’ had time to convene as a group and go through the options,” he said.

Reach Jenna Martin at 868-1222, ext. 109 or

jenna.martin@augustachronicle.com.

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