One man may have hit the nail on the head when he said, "Growth has come to Hinesville, whether you like that or not" during a recent Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission meeting.
He was addressing a proposed commercial development across from Chili’s restaurant along Oglethorpe Highway. Butler Properties and Development, LLC, wants a combined 3.5 acres rezoned from R-2, single-family to C-3, highway commercial district to make way for a shopping center for retail businesses and restaurants.
The proposed center will be across at the corner of Magnolia Lane and Oglethorpe Highway.
According to the concept plan there will be an entrance and exit off of Magnolia Lane, and two right-in/right-out entrances along Highway 84.
There is a 50-foot alley between the back of the shopping center and residences, which can help serve as an additional buffer.
Marcus Sack, an engineer with P.C. Simonton and Associates, said they are working with the Georgia Department of Transportation on the access points along the highway.
Butler Properties and Development has built national retail stores, which include Chipotle, Hardee’s, Lowe’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Sunoco.
Butler Properties and Development declined to comment on the project, however on its website proposed stores for the center include McAlister’s Deli and SportClips.
An earlier site plan, which has since been changed, included Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Krispy Kreme.
Resident Joey McCorkle said his biggest concern is the entrance on Magnolia Lane which would be near his house.
"Magnolia is already a difficult place to get out," McCorkle said. "If traffic backs up they’ll use Magnolia to get to Link Street and Way Street."
Meryl O’Neal said the neighborhood behind the center will be affected. She believes when people drive pass the shopping center they will use Link and Way streets to turn around toward Magnolia Lane.
O’Neal asked if the live oaks in the alley will be torn down.
Sack said not in the right-of-way but the developers does have the right to cut live trees on the property.
Susan Ammons asked for no access on Magnolia Lane and a tall fence to be installed as a buffer, along with vegetation.
Michael Borg said he has been concerned about the danger of turning in and out of his home on Magnolia Lane even before the proposed development. He anticipates the center will draw more traffic to their area, making it more dangerous. He was also concerned about their property values.
Sack said traffic is always a concern with new developments.
"In general what we find is that once the establishment is in place the traffic is not near as bad as everyone thought it would be. Certainly there are isolated cases," Sack said. "Whether it’s this project or another project, the traffic is going to increase on Highway 84. I think we all know that. So to say that this project will increase it so much that it will decrease the safety of that access point, I don’t think it’s fair."
Sack said the two entrances off the highway are to help cars get out in different areas safely, so Magnolia Lane isn’t impacted as much.
"It is a full access drive on a public right-of-way so we can have at least one turn left coming out," he said.
Neighbors also asked what will happen with water drainage, saying the area is low. The center is supposed to feature a detention pond.
Planning Commissioner Phil Odom asked for them to go through the site and save as many trees as possible.
"We are a tree city and the tree ordinance is written where you can completely denuded a site. But they’re also written in a manner where you are asked to do due diligence and save what’s healthy."
Planning Commissioner Durand Standard asked for the developer to consider putting up a fence as an additional buffer since the development is next to a residential area.
"I know what the ordinance calls for but this is maybe one of those cases where you look to see if there’s something additional you can do," Standard said.
Planning commissioners recommended approval for the rezoning.
The request for final approval will go before the Hinesville City Council on Thursday.