Originally created 12/02/05

Planners OK amended development proposal



Plans to rezone land for a massive second phase of Riverwood Plantation in the Greenbrier district were unanimously approved at Thursday's Columbia County Planning Commission meeting.

Included in the plan for the 1,500-acre development are more than 3,100 new home sites ranging from apartments, townhomes and free-standing subdivisions. Developers also are planning 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.

About a dozen residents of neighboring subdivisions expressed concerns about the proposal's density, its impact on existing infrastructure, stormwater runoff, the potential strain on natural resources and traffic.

"We've tried to respond to the problems we've heard," said Robert Pollard, Jr., an owner of the tract. "I think we've made good progress in regards to the concerns of our neighbors."

The approved application is smaller in scope. Six thousand home sites were originally proposed, said Jeff Browning, the director of the county's planning and development department.

Mr. Browning said Wednesday his staff recommended approval after amendments to the proposal, including a reduction in density and requirements for 85 percent of existing commercially zoned land to be used before new commercial construction could begin.

"I feel that the development, if it goes slow, will be to everybody's benefit traffic (and infrastructure) wise," said Mark Schmidt, the president of the Windmill Plantation Homeowners Association.

Mr. Browning said the development will take at least 20 years to complete and if done in steps would not have a severe impact on infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Mr. Schmidt called for planning commission Chairman Ron Thigpen to recuse himself from the vote.

Mr. Schmidt said in an interview Tuesday night that Mr. Thigpen and Mr. Pollard have a professional conflict of interest.

Both Mr. Thigpen and Mr. Pollard serve on the board of Georgia Bank and Trust, and Mr. Thigpen is the bank's executive vice president and chief operating officer, according to the bank's Web site.

Mr. Thigpen did not recuse himself Thursday and had said he doesn't see a conflict because there is no personal financial interest for him or the bank in the rezoning.

What's Next

The rezoning will go before the Columbia County Commission on Dec. 20.