Sep. 20—North Augusta's Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend against rezoning the Seven Gables and Flythe properties for the public safety headquarters during its meeting.
The highly contested zoning battle between concerned citizens and the city council has been going on for years.
"You will notice that the future land use plan for that corridor going forward calls for mixed use going forward. The public use zoning district means that this is also a neighborhood preservation overlay district. The public use zoning will negate that restriction on the property," Interim Planning and Development director Thomas Paradise said.
City administrator Jim Clifford presented a first draft sketch of the proposed building on Georgia Avenue to the Planning Commission. The sketch included Georgian architectural elements, neighborhood options and a citizen proposed green space. A preliminary traffic study stated a steady flow of traffic in and out of the location would occur.
"I share the concern of the blind curve," North Augusta resident Sharon Reed said. "If it were just the employees working that would be a third of the size. This is a public facility and we are looking at turning something in the historic district by zoning it public, I think we are looking at making it a city complex and are looking to make it very large. If it's attractive on the outside, great but that's too large to ever fit in with anything surrounding it no matter what you do on the outside."
"Absolutely everyone agrees that a new public safety facility is an urgent requirement," North Augusta resident Fred Ilardi said. "The need existed long before Riverside Village was even imagined, yet city officials did not give the priority it deserved. The need has continued to grow as our North Augusta population expands. We spent 60 million dollars and did not handle this problem yet."
The Planning Commission's role is to give a recommendation to the City Council, and the commissioners expressed similar concerns as citizens.
"I think this whole project has been a sore eye for the city. I think it's not close to it, there's some good old boy decisions at the least and I am very disappointed," commissioner Larry Watts said. "I think we are being subjected to making a decision that we should have never had to make."
Planning Commission Chairwoman Dr. Christine Crawford and Vice Chairwoman JoAnn McKie were not present during the meeting.
* Several tracts of land were recommended to be rezoned off of West Martintown Road near Knobcomb Avenue for mixed development, voted 4-1 by the commission. "This is the most important piece of property we own," Robert McKie said. "I want it done right, this is what my education is in, I've spent my entire working career in these realms and this is going to be special."
Samantha Winn covers the city of North Augusta, with a focus on government and community oriented business. Follow her on Twitter: @samanthamwinn and on Facebook and Instagram: @swinnnews.