CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - One item on the agenda for the Metropolitan Planning Commission Tuesday received a lot of attention in recent weeks from people living in the highlands area of Chatham County.
It has to do with the change in the land-use designation at the intersection of Benton Boulevard and Highlands Boulevard.
The staff recommended that the MPC approve the re-designation of use for the southwest corner of that intersection, changing it from multi-family residential to commercial retail.
The owner of that 4.78 acre lot wants to sell the land to Greg Parker, owner of the Parker's gas station chain. Parker wants to invest $3 million to build a new store at that intersection. Monday night, more than 100 people showed up to a public meeting to talk about their concerns with the construction plan.
"We went to this meeting last night, and I told everybody what our plans were. I told everyone that it is important to me that I had everyone's business, that what I want to do is please the people that were there," said Parker. "So we need to get approval, we need to get site plan approval, photometrics approval, get approvals to build the store. And as soon as we do that, then we will begin construction. Once we get permitting approval, it will take 105 days to open the store."
But not everyone was pleased with Parker's plan, bringing up concerns of sound and light pollution, traffic and safety issues, and concerns that the quality of life overall would change for people living in that area.
"A lot of the homeowners feel that aesthetically, one of the reasons they moved into that area was that there was a specific gateway of privacy from the main road," said Dee Russell, opposes Parker's plan off Benton Blvd.
Several of the opponents speaking up at Tuesday's hearing say they believe commercializing back corner would bring in more outside traffic. Ultimately, the MPC voted unanimously to go with the staff's recommendation to change the existing land-use designation.
"I'm a little disappointed obviously. I understand if there are people who are proponents for it and will be very excited. And I'm happy for them. But I am disappointed for a lot of us residents who felt very differently about it," said Russell.
"I want to go there and I want to exceed the expectations of the people in our neighborhood. And if we go there, and we just force our will and don't do a good job, people don't want to shop with us. So my goal is to create converts. I want people to be happy that we are there, not only the people that want us there, but the people that don't want us there. That's my goal," said Parker.
Again, Parker plans to invest $3 million in the project. Once the company gets the necessary approvals remaining, construction will begin, and it will take 105 days to open the store.