A traffic signal for a proposed shopping center near Wal-Mart Supercenter that will prohibit some drivers from turning left onto West Oglethorpe Highway became a main topic of discussion during the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission meeting Tuesday evening.
Hutton Development submitted an amendment to its original rezoning petition for the planned Oglethorpe Square shopping center to include two additional properties. One property is owned by Leroy Izzard, Terrell Izzard and Sarah Izzard, and the second by Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The properties will add a total of 3.11 acres to the shopping center’s footprint and be rezoned from R-4, single-two-family dwelling district, to PUD, planned unit development. The additions allow for another store and extra detention pond.
The Hinesville City Council approved the petition Thursday.
Planning commissioners also recommended approval of the preliminary plat design for Oglethorpe Square, and the City Council approved it.
The conversation Tuesday shifted from the two properties to the proposed traffic light along West Oglethorpe Highway, between Brantley and Ralph Quarterman drives. The Georgia Department of Transportation designated the traffic signal.
LCPC Executive Director and Jeff Ricketson, who presented the petition for the additional parcels, said he is sure the location of the traffic signal is permanent and drivers will not be able to make a left turn onto Oglethorpe Highway from Ralph Quarterman Drive.
Drivers traveling eastbound toward downtown Hinesville would be able to turn left onto Ralph Quarterman Drive.
Ricketson said that was part of the agreement with GDOT.
Planning Commission Chairman Jack Shuman asked how people who live along Ralph Quarterman Drive will be able to get out if they want to take a left onto Oglethorpe Highway. Commissioners suggested those residents can take South Main Street.
Lynn Bennett, of Allstate Insurance Agency, said he is in favor of the shopping center but is concerned that the traffic light will negatively affect his business.
The driveway to his business, which also provides access to residences farther off the road, is located about 20-30 feet to the east of the proposed traffic signal.
His customers will not be able to turn left out of his business to travel west on Oglethorpe Highway. Bennett said it would be ideal if the traffic light were moved about 30 feet to the east to align with the driveway. He suggested a staggered driveway could be done on the property or his driveway could be curved to align with the traffic light.
Planning Commissioner Andrew Williams agreed that the traffic light will not allow Bennett’s customers to make a left, just like traffic from Ralph Quarterman Drive.
Williams said GDOT will not adjust the location of the light and that he understands road safety is GDOT’s main concern. Williams did point out the traffic signal location will allow vehicles stopped at the light to notice his business and can bring in potential customers.
Shuman said that while motorists on Ralph Quarterman Drive have the option of travelling along South Main, that is not true of people leaving Bennett’s office or the residences behind it.
Ryan Slattery of Hutton Development said Bennett’s concern is valid. He met with Bennett earlier and wants to find a solution for the driveway. Slattery said the traffic signal location was mandated by GDOT, which acknowledged the driveway across the street from the Oglethorpe Square but considered it to be a low-volume, minor driveway.
Planning Commissioner Durand Standard told the commissioners that GDOT plans to install a median along Oglethorpe Highway, making left turns out of nearly all driveways impossible in the future.
“It’s going to be like Abercorn in Savannah. They’re going to have to make a U-turn,” Standard said. “This is an issue that’s going to get worse.”
LCPC Assistant Vice Chairwoman Lynn Pace said drivers will be able to make a U-turn with the median but are not able to now.
Williams said Slattery’s hands are tied because of GDOT and asked for Slattery to understand Bennett’s concern and continue to work with him regardless of GDOT’s mandate or the Planning Commission’s decision.
“It’s our full intent to work with Mr. Bennett and find a solution here,” Slattery said. “I don’t know if we’ll find anything with the signal as a result of that, though. I want to find a solution, and I’m committed.”
Bennett said he is confident that something will be worked out with Hutton Development.
Fence or shrubbery?
The conversation shifted back to the petition of adding more acres to the shopping center. Slattery requested that in addition to incorporating the properties that Hutton Development not have to install a fence along the back of the property and instead have a line of thick bushes or shrubbery.
Ricketson said installing a fence would be in accord with Hinesville’s city ordinance.
Standard asked if Hutton Development is willing to put up a fence if the property behind the shopping center develops within a certain time.
Slattery said the company would be willing to do that.
Planning commissioners recommended approval for the addition of the two properties and to remove the requirement of the fence subject to the landowner’s development of the adjacent property, in which Hutton Development will have to install a fence unless an opaque, vegetative buffer is already in place.
The Planning Commission recommended approval for the revised Riceboro subarea land use map. E.B. Cooper Highway was changed to a mixed-use urban corridor in anticipation of future commercial development.
Aaron Duncan submitted a petition, on behalf of property owner Heritage Bank, to rezone 2.65 acres from PUD to A-1 (agricultural district) at 318 Old Savannah Road in Flemington.
The historic Cassels-Miles house, built in 1880, is on the property and is proposed to be restored by a prospective buyer as a single-family residence. A special condition was added that no borrow pit be allowed on the parcel.