Walker Commissioner Bebe Heiskell in a meeting on May 8 decided to delay a decision granting the developer of the complex commercial use of the five acres of property he has cleared for the development site.
I personally like the project, Heiskell said. I think it would be good for the community. I would shop there if they had something I wanted. I like the project. My whole department likes the project. But I am not here to see that people can make money, although retail business brings in sales tax to the county. My job is to support the community. I would like to be able to alleviate the fears of that community so we could work in harmony, but I havent been able to do so at this point.
The meeting at the commissioners office consisted of a crowd that included the developer of the complex, contractors hired by the developer, and several members of the Flintstone community. Community members present represented both support and opposition for the project.
The crowd left standing room only.
Developer Robert Schwartz was on hand to answer questions from the commissioner and community residents.
Schwartz said of his plans, We are currently looking for tenants and trying to attract business to this location. Our hope is to have a grocery chain and doctors offices and other retailers to the location.
This came from questions asked from opponents of the shopping complex as to what might occupy the storefronts.
Eagle Landing, a subdivision located just down the road from the development site, had many residents in attendance that remained uneasy about the proposal. They cited safety issues as one of their biggest concerns.
Brandon Mosgrove, spokesman for the Eagle Landing residents, cited inconsistencies in the developers plans.
Mosgrove said, They (the plans) have changed so much we really dont know what to expect.
Mike Price, engineer who created the drawings for the proposed complex, responded, The plans have evolved to address the very concerns that have been voiced by residents of the area.
Heiskell said of the plans, I felt the drawings presented a very nice, modern, classy design for the strip mall. I believe the people who started this never intended it to be this nice and elaborate. I believe they did this to please the community. It certainly pleased me. So, if pressure from the community causes excellence thats a good thing.
Heiskell said her decision to postpone the rezoning of the property was due to many factors.
There were issues raised at the meeting that I felt needed to be addressed before a decision could properly be made, Heiskell said. Some people said the rezoning notice was hidden. Now that the clearing of the property is finished the sign can be properly displayed in the middle of the property. Some people said they didnt get a written notice. So, I want to make sure these notices are sent out by certified mail so we will know whether they got them or not.
Heiskell said she also had deeper concerns that must be also addressed.
I want to accommodate the community. There are quite a number of people who live outside the subdivision who want it. But there are some safety issues that must be addressed. I dont want to see any accidents at this busy intersection. I want a traffic study done at the intersection and a traffic light there whether the development occurs or not, Heiksell said.
There were 400 names submitted to the commissioner on a petition in support of the shopping complex.
The commissioner said she was already talking to Department of Transportation officials as to getting a traffic light in place.
Ive talked to Senator (Jeff) Mullis and he said he thought he could get it done. But I want to talk to the commissioner of transportation to get a timeframe. It took two years to get the one on Osburn School Road. If they build the complex it would be more difficult for the people to get in and out. I know there are money issues that must be resolved in the department but I have to know if they are going to able to do this light in a timely manner. If they cant do it, it will certainly affect the zoning because of the communitys concerns, said Heiskell.
Asked if the developer could choose a different plan for the property under the current zoning issued to the property, Heiskell said yes.
He can and might build something residential, Heiskell said.
Some residents were concerned that the developer might chose to build low-income housing if not granted the commercial rezoning request.
Heiskell explained, The issue was they might put in Section 8 housing, which is where people pay according to their ability and the federal government pays the rest. If he is able to get approval from the proper authorities he could build it but he would still have to go through our planning commission.
Heiskell said of the situation, I know we have asked the developer to jump through hoops he never has before but Ive tried to use my very best judgment to support the community. My job is to support the entirety of the community I represent.
Heiskell said she has encouraged the developer to apply for a conditional use variance through the planning commission because of the concerns raised by the community. She explained this variance would allow him to build the proposed complex but would limit the use of the property if the retail stores failed.
I dont normally do this but I will if the community has great concerns, said Heiskell. The owner didnt seem to find a problem with doing a conditional use variance. Because of the concerns of the community, I did that."
The Walker County Planning Commission confirmed that the developer had requested the conditional use variance. The commission on June 12 will consider his case. Then it will be brought before Heiskell again on June 26.
Heiskell said, I hope this turns out to everybodys advantage.
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