Rezoning gets group's denial

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A group of property owners on Blanchard Road in Evans offered a figurative olive branch to area residents at a Columbia County Planning Commission meeting Thursday night. Homeowners said they felt the branch came with too many thorns, and Columbia County's planning commission agreed.

Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard, Joe E. Blanchard and Billie June Morgan had requested in November the rezoning of more than 27 acres for commercial uses and about another 7 acres for professional uses, according to county records.

In response to public outcry, the Blanchards backed off the proposed professional rezoning of the seven acres and changed their rezoning request for the 27 acres from commercial to professional use.

The planning commission voted 2-1 not to recommend the rezoning after many Blanchard Road residents spoke in opposition to it.

Board members Dean Thompson and Jean Garniewicz voted against the rezoning, while Tony Atkins was the lone vote in favor of it. Brett McGuire recently resigned from the planning commission, and Chairwoman Deanne Hall was not at Thursday night's meeting.

Nearby homeowner Eric Leiden said the professional rezoning still conflicts with the county's growth management plan and should be denied.

It would send the wrong message, he said, if anyone could change the intent of the growth management plan at "the drop of a hat."

Columbia County Planning and Development Director Jeff Browning recommended that planning commissioners deny the initial request, citing the residential character of the area, the distance from an approved commercial node as dictated by the growth management plan and the increased traffic that commercial properties typically attract.

Mr. Browning cited those same reasons for recommending disapproval of the updated request by the Blanchards.

However, the deciding vote on the rezoning rests with the Columbia County Commission at its Dec. 18 meeting, Mr. Browning said. The planning commission is only a recommending body.

Columbia County taxpayers spent more than $1.6 million in December 2002 to buy about 153 acres from the Blanchard family for Blanchard Woods Park, which is near the land under consideration for rezoning.

County officials are negotiating with the Blanchard family to buy about 35 more acres to expand the park at a cost of about $2.5 million, said county Commission Chairman Ron Cross.

Some residents worry that politics might factor into the rezoning decision.

"I think in the back of everybody's mind you kind of wonder if it already has been accepted," Blanchard Road resident Lee Goolsby said. "Is it a kind of you-buy-this-we'll-do-that deal?"

At Judge Blanchard's request, negotiations for more park land were suspended until the rezoning is finalized, Mr. Cross said.

"He didn't want any hint of impropriety," Mr. Cross said of Judge Blanchard. "He said, 'Lets get that zoning issue out of the way before we go any further,' and I thought that was the proper thing to do."

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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wildman
1195
Points
wildman 12/07/07 - 04:28 am
0
0
You may have won the battle

You may have won the battle but the war ain't over but I am glad for the folks on Blanchard Rd. Will they ever replace Tony Atkins, he tried to turn our neighborhood into a shopping center. Somebody is in his pockets, he votes to develop everything that comes along. Maybe one day we can get the money hungry out and get common sense folks in.

Just My Opinion
6069
Points
Just My Opinion 12/07/07 - 04:49 am
0
0
Uncle BS, something happens

Uncle BS, something happens to good people with good intentions who run for an office. They get hit with lies, intimidation, and ultimately, with greed. You're right...there are deals being made behind the public's back that we'll never know about. If there is a good and truly honest man working in any level of government, he is a lonely man. But God bless that lonely man.

Reality
3
Points
Reality 12/07/07 - 05:11 am
0
0
I'm sure they will reach a

I'm sure they will reach a deal to develop or to have the county buy the property for an absurd amount.......

Scottskart
19
Points
Scottskart 12/07/07 - 06:57 am
0
0
I love how the sale of the

I love how the sale of the addtional (park) land was halted until the rezoning request was resolved. How nice....does this mean the county will save money on the additional (park) land IF the rezoning request is approved?

CSRAider
0
Points
CSRAider 12/07/07 - 07:03 am
0
0
The rich folk will wait yall

The rich folk will wait yall out! The y will get what they want you will see they will blind side you or start another issue to take your attention.

Kamaka
0
Points
Kamaka 12/07/07 - 07:11 am
0
0
Sincere thanks to the

Sincere thanks to the neighbors who presented such a united front. The speakers were well prepared and did an excellent job conveying my thought exactly.

The_Lorax
0
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The_Lorax 12/07/07 - 07:47 am
0
0
Columbia County commissioners

Columbia County commissioners should turn this awful request down. It would be a shame to enrage thousands of voters and residents whose children participate in county recreation programs by creating a shopping cener or office complex at the gateway to our newest and nicest park. If the residents dont want it, and the recreation coaches and parents don't want it, and the professional planning staff recommends against it, and our Planning Commission voted it down, and the neighbors up and down Blanchard Road are against it.....that should send a clear message to our commissioners to vote "NO."

HistoryFan
0
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HistoryFan 12/07/07 - 07:52 am
0
0
If the same county

If the same county commissioners that have to vote on this request are also trying to buy $2.5 million in land from the applicants, how can we be sure the taxpayers will git a fair shake throughout all this? This sounds like one of these Don Cheeks land deals like they had in Augusta that got some people indicted. We don't need this in our county, especially when it involves a well respected judge. If our commissioners are already involved in land deals with the Blanchard family over this park, they have no business voting on a rezoning that would make this same family's remaining land worth millions of dollars more, or at least they have no way they could vote "yes" without inviting a lot of unwanted scrutiny and accusations of political favoritism.

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 12/07/07 - 08:04 am
0
0
If the county already bought

If the county already bought 153 acres from the Blanchards for the existing park, and are buying 35 more acres, why not just acquire the remaining land in question here, even if they don't put soccer fields there? It would be like Kroger Field over by the government complex.

a crazy old man
30
Points
a crazy old man 12/07/07 - 08:42 am
0
0
Columbia County Planning

Columbia County Planning Commission should buy the land on Blanchard Road if they are not going to let the Blanchards do what they want to with it. It's a crying shame to have a road bearing your name and you can't do what you want to with the land or any land anywhere. Who really owns it?

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 12/07/07 - 08:44 am
0
0
I wish I owned the land in

I wish I owned the land in question. We would have already made a deal @2.5 million. That is $71,428.57 per acre. The Blanchards happen to own the land and the county wants it, what is wrong with that as long as everything is above board?

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 12/07/07 - 09:16 am
0
0
The story says the Blanchards

The story says the Blanchards halted negotiations to sell the land the county needs until the rezoning is taken care of on the other land. If they are holding up the sale of the land the county needs pending a vote on the other land they want rezoned, how is that avoiding the appearance of impropriety?

leegoolsby
0
Points
leegoolsby 12/07/07 - 09:18 am
0
0
As a resident of the

As a resident of the Blanchard Rd area and a citizen of Columbia County, I am very pleased with last nights outcome. I would guess we had well over 200 concerned and determined citizens (many unable to get inside), all wearing RED, at the Planning Commission meeting. We did the right thing and will continue doing the right thing. This is about much more than 1 family and 27 acres fo land. This is about protecting the residential areas of Columbia County. This is about protecting a multi-million dollar tax payer investment. This is about holding our government to a plan they spent our money to develop and one which they adopted. This is about preventing and discouraging speculative commercial or professional zoning. This is about so much more than one family and 26 acres. Thanks for all the support we have recieved. Columbia County is a great place to live and we have wonderful elected officials whom I know will do the right thing.

The_Lorax
0
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The_Lorax 12/07/07 - 09:26 am
0
0
leegoolskoby, I agree......I

leegoolskoby, I agree......I hope our commissioners do the right thing and vote no on this, as everyone else has. we have lots of development, plenty of office parks and shopping centers - and more traffic than our roads can handle. I dont think the voters will be mad at them for turning this one down, but plenty of people would be disappointed if they did this against everyone's wishes, and no one would buy the argument that it was done for the greater good of the county and its residents, which should be the main criteria they use to make such importantr decision.

lulu
0
Points
lulu 12/07/07 - 10:16 am
0
0
Anyone with an IQ bigger than

Anyone with an IQ bigger than their shoe size knows that real-estate transactions are all about leverage. Why should it be any different for a civil servant?

HistoryFan
0
Points
HistoryFan 12/07/07 - 10:52 am
0
0
We don't need these kind of

We don't need these kind of developments in neighborhoods where people live, and where we have parks. I bet they wouldn't put a shopping center at the gates to Savannah Rapids Pavilion - or on William Few at the entrance to Patriots Park.

watchingyou
0
Points
watchingyou 12/07/07 - 10:55 am
0
0
I don't think anyone can

I don't think anyone can blame the Blanchards for trying to maximize the value of their property. However, it is the job of the county commissioners to see that it is not at the expensive of the long term good of Columia county. We do not want to end up like Gordon Highway or Wrightsboro road with thousands of square footage of transient or vacant professional/commercial property when the growth has continued to more west, beyond this area. Especially not in front of a 5.6 million tax dollar community park. We are trying to promote our area and community long term! I ask the county commissioners to abide by the recommendations of the planning an zoning commission and vote no. Any vote to the contrary speaks volumes as to where the commissioners interests lie. Which is not with the residents of the county.

leegoolsby
0
Points
leegoolsby 12/07/07 - 11:11 am
0
0
Nothing wrong with the

Nothing wrong with the Blanchards trying to maximize the value of their property. We all do this in one way or another. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what the residents of the Blanchard Road area are doing now. We are trying to protect our property values, protect our family, and protect our county. The Blanchards are great people and we owe much thanks to many generations of Blanchards.

watchingyou
0
Points
watchingyou 12/07/07 - 11:16 am
0
0
Jim Blanchard is a board

Jim Blanchard is a board member of GB&T. Ron Thigpen, who is a seniror executive of GB&T, answers to him.
Ron is also one of the county commisoners who will be voting on this issue. I'm sure Ron will abstain as there is an obvious conflict of interest.

mosesredsea7
0
Points
mosesredsea7 12/07/07 - 12:09 pm
0
0
We are in the south where

We are in the south where "scratch my back and I'll scratch your" runs deep. And most of these kind of folks claim to be Christians. Motives! Motives! Motives!

get.the.beam.out
0
Points
get.the.beam.out 12/07/07 - 12:56 pm
0
0
So what's new?

So what's new?

watchingyou
0
Points
watchingyou 12/07/07 - 01:12 pm
0
0
FYI: The blanchard road

FYI:

The blanchard road residents have a webiste:
www.saveblanchardrd.com

watchingyou
0
Points
watchingyou 12/07/07 - 01:12 pm
0
0
HistoryFan
0
Points
HistoryFan 12/07/07 - 01:24 pm
0
0
WatchingYou....your

WatchingYou....your ubiquitous presence is appreciated.....even if you can't spell.

glock007
0
Points
glock007 12/07/07 - 07:16 pm
0
0
Tony Atkins, the real-estate

Tony Atkins, the real-estate salesman, was the rudist, most arrogant, horses tail I have had the pleasure of working with in along time. He sat up on his throne with his hands crossed and a scowl on his face. After an American Hero from desert Storm finished his statement the crown applauded. Tony Atkins, the realestate salesman, raised up in is chair, raised his voice and scolded the crowd f aplauding!!! WHAT A JERK!! Ms.Garniewicz and Mr. Thompson, listened to the county professionals and the residents, and against changing the rules and going against the county's growth plan. Horse tail Tony Atkins the realestate salesman voted to make more SALES. He is a disgrace to our county.

DEVGRU
0
Points
DEVGRU 12/07/07 - 07:36 pm
0
0
Tony Atkins shouldn't even be

Tony Atkins shouldn't even be involved in this process. Obviously he stands to gain something here.

wildman
1195
Points
wildman 12/07/07 - 09:03 pm
0
0
removetonyatkins.com, I'm

removetonyatkins.com, I'm sure he's made enough money by sitting on the commission. It will be very interesting to see how Thigpen votes, he appears to be a class act. Time will tell!

Rob Pavey
552
Points
Rob Pavey 12/07/07 - 10:20 pm
0
0
More than likely the

More than likely the commission will vote against the recommendations of planning and zoning. (probably a deal cut without public knowledge) The voting populace will need to keep track of the times that the current commissioners disregard the advice of its own experts and constituency. It is happening on a more regular basis.

DEVGRU
0
Points
DEVGRU 12/08/07 - 07:27 pm
0
0
Also remember that Superior

Also remember that Superior Court Judges are elected officials answering to the voters.

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