Big Box issue in PTC is dead for 2007

Thu, 12/06/2007 - 4:13pm
By: John Munford

The controversial proposal to abandon two city roads on the westside for a Big Box shopping center is dead for this year.

That means the two newly-elected city council members, Doug Sturbaum and Don Haddix, will get their crack at the matter. Both ran campaigns arguing that developers should face tougher restrictions from the city, and they said the city shouldn’t sell the road to allow commercial development.

The matter has been temporarily rescheduled to the Jan. 17 council meeting, officials announced Thursday.

Because Councilman Steve Boone and Mayor Harold Logsdon have previously indicated they would support selling the roads, Councilwoman Cyndi Plunkett is seen as the swing vote on the issue.

Developer Doug McMurrain spent more than a year working with neighbors of the property in an effort to get council approval for a 89,000 square foot “big box” Kohl’s. After a community outcry against the proposal, McMurrain abandoned that effort and is now seeking one large store at 42,000 square feet, for which he is trying to lure an upscale grocery store.

Up until the withdrawal of the item from Thursday night’s agenda, the council was scheduled for at least the third time to consider the possibility of abandoning part of Line Creek Drive and all of Line Creek Court so they could be sold to McMurrain.

City Attorney Ted Meeker has said that should the city abandon Line Creek Drive and Line Creek Court, developer McMurrain could advance an argument in court that he should be allowed to purchase the property. The abandonment and possible sale of the streets would actually take place in two separate votes as currently contemplated by city officials.

Just this past Tuesday afternoon, McMurrain had unveiled a site plan for the shopping center that had the largest store at 42,000 square feet, which is still considered a big-box store under city ordinance. The other stores would include one at 28,000 feet and two at 25,000 feet, McMurrain said.

All told the shopping center would total about 172,000 to 175,000 square feet, which would also trigger the city’s big-box limit of 150,000 square feet for shopping centers.

McMurrain of Capital City Development said Tuesday he was courting an upscale grocery company for the larger building. Only about 20,000 square feet would be used for smaller shops, in part due to vacancies in the city’s current retail market and also a planned competitor just down the road inside Peachtree City who is building an entire shopping center with smaller shops, McMurrain said.

McMurrain said he needed the roads at first because the city’s setback regulations wouldn’t allow for the Kohl’s footprint to fit on the site.

McMurrain later said all big-box proposals for the site were off the table, but he also said at a previous council meeting that some retailers desired by city residents, such as Whole Foods, don’t do any buildings smaller than big boxes.

McMurrain said recently that he needs to acquire the roads in order to be flexible with the site plan for the shopping center.

McMurrain has offered to pay appraised value for the roads, which he thinks would equal roughly $700,000.

Should McMurrain proceed with the big-box proposal in the new year before a new council, Capital City would be the first company to go through the city’s new process for evaluating big-box stores, which replaced the city’s previous outright ban on such regional stores and shopping centers.

Under the new big-box ordinance, developers have to provide traffic studies and other facts to the City Council in an application, and the council ultimately votes whether to approve or deny the project.

A committee appointed by Mayor Harold Logsdon recently asked McMurrain to prepare a site plan that doesn’t include a large anchor tenant but assumes the roads would be abandoned. On that committee were council members Steve Boone and Cyndi Plunkett, Marty Mullin from the planning commission, citizens Lynda Wojcik and Tim Lydell and City Planner David Rast.

Unless council somehow places stipulations on the road abandonment or purchase, it is possible McMurrain could seek a special council approval for big box stores, defined under city ordinance as those larger than 32,000 square feet in size.

Numerous residents have spoken out against big box stores because they tend to have regional draws, creating traffic problems in addition to creating other issues.

The site is currently zoned commercial and is bordered to the east by Planterra Way.

The development, McMurrain said, would include outdoor seating areas and raised crosswalks and fountains similar to the previous proposal for the site that included the Kohl’s Department Store. The plan also includes the same type of parking ratios, meeting the city’s minimum parking spaces with four spaces for each 1,000 square feet of retail space, McMurrain said.

McMurrain said the property’s potential name has been changed to “The Columns at Peachtree City,” in part because columns are one of the architectural features proposed for the development.

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