Columbia County approves redesign fee for Family Y facility

Columbia County commissioners approved Tuesday a nearly $112,000 fee to redesign a planned exhibit hall in the Gateway shopping center even though the primary tenant, The Family Y, wishes to renegotiate its contract.

During the summer, the commission rejected construction bids for the 47,000-square-foot facility in Grovetown when they came in at about $700,000 more than the $6 million budgeted for the project. The redesign fee will be paid to Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial to design a cheaper facility.

The Family Y initially had agreed to a five-year lease for 20,000 square feet of the exhibition hall to operate a fitness center.

County Administrator Scott Johnson told commissioners the organization now wants to reduce its space to 16,500 square feet and subsequently reduce its rent. Johnson said he is working with Family Y officials on restructuring the lease agreement and possibly allowing payments on a sliding scale.

The Family Y might initially pay rent below the market price if it agrees to rent increases each year of the lease. At the end of the lease agreement, Johnson said, The Family Y will pay the county more than a $1 million in rent.

Still, Commissioner Charles Allen said he feels too uncertain with the lease negotiations to continue with the project. He cast the lone vote against redesigning the facility.

Officials had hoped to open the facility on Horizon South Parkway next month. Johnson said it likely will be December 2012 before it is ready for public use.

Also at the meeting, commissioners passed a moratorium on rezoning properties for small residential lots.

Officials said the moratorium likely will last 90 days, giving them time to rewrite ordinances to include larger buffers and more open space in small-lot subdivisions.

The moratorium includes R-2, R-3 and R-3A rezonings, which feature minimum lot sizes between 7,500 to 10,000 square feet.

Property already zoned for smaller lots won’t be affected by the moratorium and proposed update to the ordinance.

The commission approved a site plan revision for an Evans development to allow for a large fitness center.

The fitness facility is planned on a 6.3-acre corner lot in Marshall Square near the intersection of Evans Town Center Boulevard and North Belair Road.

County Development Services Director Richard Harmon has previously said that the fitness center will be 50,000 square feet.

The facility will create about 30 jobs, contractor John Martin said earlier this month during a county Planning Commission meeting.

Now that the revision has won approval, work on the project might start next month and take about a year to complete.

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