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Lawsuit over apartment zoning puts pressure on Augusta Commission

Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 4:10 PM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:52 AM
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Some jokingly call the Hillcreek patio home community “copville” for how it’s attracted some of the area’s top law enforcement personnel over the past 20 years.

Richmond County sheriff’s Maj. Gene Johnson, retired CSRA Law Enforcement Trai­ning Center Director Tom Nash and retiring Sheriff Ronnie Strength are among those who have purchased homes in the close-knit, relatively quiet community off Augusta West Parkway.

Some homeowners fear that tranquility might be disrupted now that the Augusta Commission is being sued into reconsidering a rezoning action prohibiting another apartment complex in the congested area.

“They think they can get this done right at Christmas. They think no one will notice,” said Elizabeth Nash, Tom’s wife and treasurer of the Hillcreek homeowners association, which has reserved time to speak at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “We’ll have no privacy anymore, and Richmond Coun­ty loses good, hardworking, taxpaying citizens.”

The commission made quick work of the June zoning request, voting 10-0 to deny it before a packed audience of mostly retirement-age homeowners from Hillcreek, the Meadows at Hillcreek and Nevis Townhomes.

The landowner, the L.P. Mays Family Partnership, has filed suit, alleging the commission had no legal reason to deny the request. A motion to rescind the earlier decision is on Tuesday’s commission agenda.

Jim Trotter, an attorney for the Mays family, said Friday that existing uses surrounding the 16.87-acre tract “are no reason that the (Mays) property should not be zoned for apartments.”

The rapidly growing area off Wheeler Road near Doc­tors Hospital boasts other housing complexes, an abundance of office space and a new McDonald’s.

With four commissioners leaving the 10-member panel after the final meeting of the year Tuesday, a decision to rescind the motion doesn’t mean the proposed upscale apartment complex of 252 units can move forward.

Its plan and the zoning change still must receive commission approval before construction begins, Augusta General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who is among those leaving office, said he hoped the matter would be referred back to the planning commission if it is rescinded Tues­day.

The item is No. 32 on a lengthy commission agenda that also includes potential renewal of the downtown Business Improvement District, a tax district that has become controversial since it was formed five years ago. Several downtown property owners and activists have signed up to speak against the district.

Also on the agenda is the naming of the new sheriff’s administration building for Strength, approval of a $200,000 allocation to the De­vel­­op­ment Authority of Rich­mond County for infrastructure for a potential retail development, and the hiring of Vir­ginia Beach Golf Man­age­ment to operate Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

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Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/16/12 - 06:46 pm
4
0
Reason?

They don't have to have a reason. The purpose of a County Commission is to weigh the desires of one group against the desires of another and make a decision. If there were nothing but a checklist, then you wouldn't need a commission.

County commissions have wide discretion. Attorney Jim Trotter knows that, and he's just bluffing with the lawsuit thing.

Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/16/12 - 06:47 pm
3
0
DDA

Instead of giving $200,000 dollars to the DDA for crony capitalism, just abolish the DDA.

americafirst
965
Points
americafirst 12/16/12 - 08:45 pm
2
0
You could not be more wrong.,

You could not be more wrong., Little Lamb. Its not a popularity contest or which side screams the loudest. The mere "desires" of one group cannot dictate what someone else can do with their property. At least not in this country. The Commission must have some basis to deny the request.

southern2
6035
Points
southern2 12/16/12 - 09:21 pm
5
1
Who wants a 3 story apartment

Who wants a 3 story apartment complex towering their 1 story residential? The same pitch was used to bring in the Amli Way fiasco in the same area? That "luxury complex" was Section 8 before it was completed. What is to keep this Atlanta based developer from changing their mind after zoning is changed to take advantage of the Federal tax incentives, low interest loans, rebates, and automatic monthly rent deposits for low income housing? So, are the Augusta Commissioners going to support the taxpaying homeowners of Hillcreek as they did in June with another 10-0 vote in their favor or will some fold in favor of the out of town firm looking to turn a quick profit at the homeowners expense and the demise of another local neighborhood?

Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/16/12 - 10:24 pm
3
1
Basis

The basis is population density — the same basis Columbia County gave for their current apartment moratorium. It has passed court muster.

countyman
19731
Points
countyman 12/17/12 - 12:26 am
1
2
''The rapidly growing area

''The rapidly growing area off Wheeler Road near Doc­tors Hospital boasts other housing complexes, an abundance of office space and a new McDonald’s.''

I've said before West Augusta is a beast in terms of attracting new private construction. There's multiple construction projects around the Augusta Exchange, and construction taking place at Wheeler Town Park(Carmax area). New construction is coming to the Village at Riverwatch in 2013. Then you have the 44 acre development at I-20/Walton Way Extension which could be added to the Augusta Exchange area.

The developer who purchased the former Regal Village theater(Augusta West Plaza) could return the building to it's original purpose. West Augusta would then have a total of five theaters in the future(Augusta Exchange, Village at Riverwatch(NCG Cinemas), Washington rd, and Augusta West Plaza.

Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/12 - 12:35 am
1
4
Details

Countyman wrote:

There's multiple construction projects around. . . .

The more appropriate construction is “there are multiple construction projects around. . . .” The subject of the sentence is projects, which is plural.

And then again:

West Augusta would then have a total of five theaters in the future: Augusta Exchange, Village at Riverwatch (NCG Cinemas), Washington Rd. (Masters Cinema), and Augusta West Plaza.

If I can count correctly this late at night, those are only four, not five.

Riverman1
82442
Points
Riverman1 12/17/12 - 08:01 am
0
1
This will end up in a lawsuit

This will end up in a lawsuit costing Richmond County lots before it's settled.

Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/12 - 09:10 am
1
1
Reasons

I'm having a hard time getting my head around this statement from the story:

Jim Trotter, an attorney for the Mays family, said Friday that existing uses surrounding the 16.87-acre tract “are no reason that the (Mays) property should not be zoned for apartments.”

To me, "existing uses" is at the very heart of zoning decisions. If an area's existing uses are factories and warehouses, you don't re-zone for residential. If an area's existing uses are single-family homes, you don't re-zone for apartments. If an area's existing uses are high-density apartments, you don't re-zone for factories.

Columbia County put a moratorium on re-zoning requests for apartments after the Marshall Square fiasco. Their reason was that there were several parcels in the county zoned for apartments according to their expensive "master zoning plan," and until those parcels became developed, there was no sense in re-zoning parcels just because the owner wanted a quick buck.

tl-bro
151
Points
tl-bro 12/17/12 - 09:54 am
0
0
Little Lamb...

Have you seen how many apartment complexes are either on Augusta West Parkway or West Wheeler Parkway?

Little Lamb
45364
Points
Little Lamb 12/17/12 - 09:58 am
1
1
Apartments

Yes, I have, ti-bro. That's why the commission said enough is enough.

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