Originally created 12/01/05

Chairman is urged to skip vote

A Columbia County homeowners association president is calling for county Planning Commission Chairman Ron Thigpen to recuse himself from a rezoning request for a massive development in the Greenbrier District at tonight's commission meeting.

The call comes from Mark Schmidt, the president of the Windmill Plantation Homeowners Association, which is a neighborhood next to the proposed second phase to Riverwood Plantation.

In a letter e-mailed to The Augusta Chronicle, county planning and development staff, Mr. Thigpen and the planning commission, Mr. Schmidt called for Mr. Thigpen to recuse himself from voting on the matter because Mr. Thigpen and Robert Pollard Jr., an owner of the tract under consideration, are both on the board of directors for Georgia Bank and Trust.

Mr. Thigpen also is executive vice president and chief operating officer of Georgia Bank and Trust, according to the company's Web site.

"I don't have anything against Mr. Thigpen one way or the other," Mr. Schmidt said. "I just think it's a conflict of interest that should be avoided."

Mr. Thigpen said Wednesday night that he follows the advice of the county's attorney in such matters and that he would participate in the vote.

"I have to go by the guidance from the county attorney. And the county attorney says the test (of what a conflict of interest is) ... is if it's a matter of financial interest,'' Mr. Thigpen said, adding that neither he nor Georgia Bank and Trust have any financial interest in the matter and that simply being an acquaintance of someone isn't considered a conflict.

Included in the plan for the 1,500-acre development are more than 3,100 new home sites ranging from apartments, town homes and free-standing subdivisions. Developers also are planning for a grocery store and more than 230 acres of additional retail or professional office space.

The development, called Riverwood Plantation West, is divided into two sections: one south of Windmill Plantation and bordered by William Few Parkway and Clanton Road, and a second west of Windmill Plantation and Greenbrier High School and bisected by Washington and Old Washington roads.

Mr. Schmidt and nearly 100 other residents of neighboring subdivisions attended the Nov. 17 planning commission meeting to oppose the development, expressing concerns about the proposal's density, effect on existing infrastructure, storm water runoff and traffic.

The rezoning of Riverwood Plantation West was first read before the commission Oct. 20 and was tabled because of county staff's concerns about inconsistencies with code, the additional commercial development, the lack of land set aside for schools and inadequate buffers to existing development.

Those concerns have since been addressed by developers to the satisfaction of county planning staff, who are recommending approval, said Jeff Browning, the county's planning director.

Columbia County Bureau Chief Preston Sparks contributed to this article.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at 868-1222, ext. 109, or jeffery.trubey@augustachronicle.com.

If you go

What: Columbia County Planning Commission

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Evans Government Complex Auditorium

Also: Agendas are available at www.columbiacountyga.gov


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