Commission OKs sidewalks

Despite the wishes of Marshall Square developers, the Columbia County Planning Commission decided Thursday that both sides of roads built inside the 52-acre mixed-use development will have sidewalks.

But planning commissioners said during their meeting that the developers might not have to incur the expense for sidewalk construction, which currently runs at about $20 per foot of sidewalk, according to developers.

Sidewalk construction in front of lots in the development between Evans Town Center Boulevard and North Belair Road won't become necessary until building takes place on those lots.

The lot owners then will be responsible for building a sidewalk along the thoroughfares, the zoning board determined in a 3-1 vote.

The sidewalk issue came before the planning commission because the Marshall family, owners of the property, sought a preliminary plat approval to build two roads to access a five-acre tract that will be the site of a hotel and restaurant, according to officials.

One road will extend Ronald Reagan Drive through Marshall Square and connect to North Belair Road. Another road will enter the development from Evans Town Center Boulevard, across from the Columbia County Library entrance, and curve south to intersect with the Ronald Reagan Drive extension.

Developers proposed building sidewalks on both sides of the Ronald Reagan Drive extension for most of its length and along the south side of the other road.

They argued that development on the north side of the northernmost road will be mostly office development, which has less foot traffic and won't need a sidewalk.

Also, a sidewalk on the north side of that road, because of a higher elevation, might require as many as five handicap-accessible ramps, which are costly to construct. The ramps must be built to comply with federal law.

Developers said they are not opposed to sidewalks. In fact, they said they intend to build about 15,000 feet of pedestrian walkways in the development, which they said is considerably more than other planned-unit developments in Columbia County.

The developers said they simply don't want to be compelled to build sidewalks where none are needed.

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