Originally created 06/20/02

Aaron seeking to open car lot

A former baseball star known for driving in runs hopes to have Augustans driving his cars.

Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron said Wednesday he plans to open a Jaguar and Land Rover dealership on Washington Road across from Club Car in Columbia County. All he needs is Columbia County's approval of a rezoning request.

"We want to build a beautiful facility there," Mr. Aaron said in a telephone interview. "It's beautiful there. We're hoping that everything will be approved and we can go on about our business."

Tonight, the Columbia County Planning Commission will hear the request - submitted by local developer Bobby Meybohm - to rezone the 14.69-acre parcel from residential to commercial use. The land is owned by Charlotte Cash.

Jeff Browning, Columbia County's Planning and Development director, said his staff is recommending commercial use on the front two-thirds of the property but wants to leave the back third as a transition area between the dealership and nearby homes.

"Clearly, commercial is a viable use of that property," he said.

Planners are concerned about the development's effect on the adjacent Washington Commons retirement community.

"They can rest assured ... we will do anything possible to make this as easy as we possibly can," Mr. Aaron said. "That's their home, and if I thought I was coming in and interrupting their lifestyle I wouldn't do it."

Mr. Aaron has numerous business ventures in the Atlanta area. He owns a BMW dealership and operates several Church's and Popeye's restaurants. He also plans to open a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

He said it was too early to discuss details of the Columbia County dealership - including employment numbers or a time frame.

"Most of our employment is going to come from that area," he said.

The upscale dealership might be well-tailored to Columbia County, where residents have one of the highest income averages in the state. The average Columbia County household made $55,682 in 1999 - about $13,000 more than the state average.

"They think that is a growing area and that Jag and Land Rover need to be in the thick of that area," Mr. Aaron said. "Plus, there are a lot of Jag and Land Rover customers in that area."

Mr. Aaron remains Major League Baseball's home-run record holder 25 years after completing a long career with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. He works for the Braves as a senior vice president and assistant to the president.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.

The request, accompanied by the planning commission's vote, will go before county commissioners for final approval July 16.


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