Despite protests from area residents, Hinesville City Council on Thursday rezoned five acres on Highway. 84 West to accommodate a new grocery store.
The lot at 1422 W. Oglethorpe Hwy. had been zoned in a single-family dwelling district.
The grocery was the most controversial of 30 items on the council agenda during the three and a half hour meeting. Most resulted in no action. The issue had been scheduled for the July 17 meeting but was delayed after Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Director Jeff Ricketson said the public had not been given sufficient notice about a possible rezoning vote.
The rezoning allows for the construction of a grocery store with gas pumps. Numerous people voiced opinions during a hearing on the rezoning request. Among those speaking for the request was attorney Joel Osteen, representing property owner, Wilma Gaskins, and Ben Berry of Berry Engineers. Opponents included residents Tom Melvin, Randall Baehr and former mayor Tom Ratcliff.
“That store itself will be right behind my house on Brittany Lane,” Melvin said. “I just want to ask each and every one of you if you’d like to have a store behind your house… I can tell you right now I’m not going to use that store. I’m retired military. We shop at the commissary.”
Melvin said many of his neighbors are retired military andsuggested they also would not use the store. He said he didn’t want to stop progress, but added he was sure people would use Topi Trail to avoid a traffic light planned for 84’s intersection with Meloney Drive. He rebuffed comments by Berry that a traffic study showed taking Topi to Brittany to Meloney to the front of the store was not shorter or faster. Berry said it was not a short cut, but Melvin suggested drivers will use it to avoid the traffic light.
Baehr referred to his proximity of his home on Topi Trail as “ground zero.” He dismissed Berry’s comments that an eight-foot wooden fence buffered by vegetation around the store would block noise. Even though LCPC Planner Gabrielle Hartage pointed out the fence exceeded ordinance standards, Melvin said there was a difference between exceeding a standard and the needs of the community.
Ratcliff agreed. He asked if the proposed fence would be repaired or replaced by the developer when it deteriorates. Berry had said most of the fence would sit at a higher elevation than area homes, in some cases bringing the height of the fence to 12 feet. Ratcliff wanted to know if that was the final elevation. He said controversial rezoning proposals will continue to challenge the city as long as development is focused on Highway 84.
“I have talked with several people who live within that community,” Councilman Keith Jenkins, who represents the residents, said. “One of their concerns is that fence. As time goes by that wooden fence will deteriorate. Can we suggest the fence material not be wood?”
No direct response was given. Berry noted the fence was buffered by the vegetation and would only be seen by store managers, not residents. He said managers would see any deterioration and take care of it before it became a problem.
The LCPC recommended approval of the rezoning with special conditions, including deviating from the approved plans. Osteen asked for an additional condition that the store be completed within a year of signing the contract or the zoning would revert to single-family. Council delayed making Brittany Lane one-way until after the project was complete and a new traffic study done.
The council also appointed Kenneth Pangburn as municipal court judge. Mayor Jim Thomas, who recommended Pangburn, said he is a retired Army colonel and former judge advocate general officer who has been working with the juvenile court system. Council members discussed the appointment during an executive session.
In other business, leaders recognized Hinesville firemen Casey Hale, Trey Heath and Rowdy Carson for heroism with an award.
Hinesville Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Michelle Ricketson presented the Main Street District map. It was approved with one small area noted by City Manager Billy Edwards that isn’t part of the district that would be removed.
The council approved an appeal to the Citizens Sign Appeals Board for a variance on the sign for Georgia Dermatology office at 510 E. Oglethorpe Hwy. and a special use permit application to allow for a used car sales lot at 1241 W. Oglethorpe Hwy.
Council also approved the final plat request by T.R. Long Engineering for the Preserve at Cinder Hill, phase II, which had been delayed at the July 17 meeting due to questions about drainage.