Originally created 09/09/04

Parking lot is closer for club



The Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission granted a special exception for a parking lot to support the Club at Raes Creek over the objections of residents who said it will just bring more traffic, speeding and noise into their west Augusta neighborhood.

The exception granted to ATC Development Corp. will allow Richard Cutler, general manager of the Club, to move forward with developing the tennis facility, restaurant and sports bar.

The Augusta Commission will have the final say on the exception at the Sept. 21 meeting.

Mr. Cutler plans to lease the property from ATC Development for 10 years.

In March, the planning commission denied a parking variance for the Club, saying the number of spaces for the expanded clubhouse wasn't adequate.

Also in March, city commissioners gave their attorney the go-ahead to pursue legal action against Mr. Cutler for building the clubhouse without city approval. A possible compromise that could allow the construction to move forward involved creating more parking.

On Wednesday, Kamel Circle residents, including Dr. William Bloodworth Jr. and William Estroff, spoke against granting the special exception.

"The traffic in and out at the Racquet Club complex is already a hazard to the neighborhood," Mr. Estroff said. He also complained that noise from loud stereos, mufflers, and the apartment complex would be increased by noise from the clubhouse, restaurant and sports bar.

"Mr. Cutler has blatantly built two extra floors to a building he only had a permit to put a room on," he said.

Dr. Bloodworth said any increased traffic in the area poses a hazard to the residents and their children.

Planning Commission Director George Patty recommended approval of the request with special conditions.

"Mr. Cutler has paid the penalties," he said. "He's been shut down for six months. ... I think what it boils down to is it's an existing problem, and yes, this is going to make it worse, but the bottom line is, he's zoned for the improvements he's made, and the only question he's got is the parking."

Special conditions include a 10-foot buffer and no impervious materials on the parking lot. Mr. Cutler also is required to provide 152 parking spaces on his property when the lease expires, and to close the sports bar at 11:30 p.m.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.