Leaders aim to control growth

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NORTH AUGUSTA - It's a familiar refrain for many Augusta-area cities , but booming growth and how to manage it again will be the themes for North Augusta in 2008, officials say.

With growth comes advantages such as economic development, and negatives such as traffic congestion. City leaders say it will be a challenge to balance both in harmony.

"You just can't avoid it, but you try to have the foresight and do things to alleviate traffic concerns," Mayor Lark Jones said.

Avoiding the congestion that came with growth in Columbia and Richmond counties will be one of the obstacles North Augusta city leaders will have to overcome. The recent allocation of an additional $18 million in state funds to complete the Palmetto Parkway extension to Interstate 20 will help alleviate some traffic in downtown, Mr. Jones said.

G.M. "Skip" Grkovic , the city's director of economic and community development, said the Interstate 520 project should be completed in late 2009 or early 2010. The interstate will direct some growth toward Belvedere and he said it could be a draw for future industrial, commercial and residential development.

The look and layout of such development will be another key issue. The city council recently approved a new comprehensive development code, redefining zoning ordinances and setting guidelines for building aesthetics.

"It seems like our major controversial things are always involving rezoning and growth and I expect that to continue," the mayor said.

Mr. Grkovic said the cooling of the once-simmering housing market has affected development in North Augusta, though not to the extent of many communities throughout the country.

About 2,000 residences have been added in recent years to the 7,900 households tallied within the city limits in the 2000 Census, Mr. Grkovic said.

Developers have as many as 8,000 homes, plus 2 million square feet of retail space in the long-term planning stages, he said.

"Some of that will surely be developed, some of that may never be developed," he said. "But even if only half of it moves forward that's still a fairly substantial increase in the population and commercial activity in the city."

Whether the development happens and how long it takes, he said "will be a function of the economy."

Development in the city center remains strong, particularly along the Savannah River, he said.

Much of that, Mr. Grkovic said, is fueled by Jackson Square, the first new commercial development in downtown in a decades, and the city's new municipal center.

The four-story, nearly $20 million municipal center is beginning to take shape and will dominate the corner of Georgia and Bluff avenues once completed during the first quarter of 2009.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 823-3424 or scott.trubey@augustachronicle.com.

The  municipal center being constructed on Georgia Avenue in North Augusta is just part of the city's booming development.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
The municipal center being constructed on Georgia Avenue in North Augusta is just part of the city's booming development.

ABOUT THE SERIES

What's coming in the new year? We take a look at what some say will be the challenges of the weeks and months ahead:


WEDNESDAY: Augusta


THURSDAY: Transportation


FRIDAY: Public schools


SATURDAY: North Augusta


SUNDAY: Medical College of Georgia


MONDAY: Drought


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