Rafy Bassali’s revision to the West Lake planned urban development plot moved one step closer to reality after the Columbia County Planning Commission unanimously approved Bassali’s latest plan revision in the Oct. 7 meeting.
The property in question is a 5.68-acre area between the University Prompt Care at 1100 W. Lake Commons Dr. and the Claiborne at 557 Furys Ferry Rd. The proposed change would allow for 31,800 square feet of retail and restaurant space, including Swank, Posh Tots and others. The rezoning application indicates it could take three to four years to fully develop the area.
At the last meeting on Sept. 17, the matter was postponed so Bassali could work out issues with the West Lake Property Owners Association. The issues were primarily related to storm water and verbiage regarding a drive-thru being included in the development.
Kyle Titus from Columbia County Engineering Services addressed some of the storm water concerns.
“We’ve asked the applicant to provide detail on water quality and water quantity treatment plans in our final storm water calculations,” Titus said. “We’ve run calculations that show there are no adverse impacts to downstream property owners with or without a pond. Ultimately, we want to ensure that the post-developed site will not create adverse impacts.”
The drive-thru concerns were mostly related to worries about a noisy, amplified speaker operating at a traditional drive-thru as orders are placed. Bassali was clear that if the use of the drive-thru is approved, the traditional use that was causing concern is not the intention for his drive-thru provision.
“It would depend on the tenant, but this would likely be a health food or coffee shop-type tenant,” Bassali said. “Something with a speaker, I don’t think it would fit what we’re trying to go for.”
Before the staff voted on the revision, Bassali asked a question no one had never heard before.
“No matter how this plan goes, do I have the ability to do either plan, the one that’s approved now or the original plan?” he asked. “Is there a way to get both approved?”
Bassali was referring to both the revised plan he’s presented and the planned urban development layout that’s been approved for the empty lot since 1983.
Jim Cox, chair of the Planning Commission, said that would not be possible and asked Bassali to clarify his question.
“It’s just that this revised plan is not the most efficient or money-making in any way. So, if there were a lot of restrictions or extra things I have to do, it just doesn’t make sense to do it,” Bassali said. “The already approved plan makes a lot of money. Mine doesn’t. This revised plan is much more valuable to the community, but if there are a lot of hoops to go through, I will just go with the original plan.”
The planning staff assured Bassali that nothing was set in stone at this meeting, and there was still time for negotiation before the revised plan was locked in for final approval by the Board of Commissioners on Oct. 19.
“We are a recommending body. We have the public hearing, and we ask questions the commissioners will probably ask. Then, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to go forward. We recommend, but it’s the Board of Commissioners decision that’s binding.”
Cox added, “It’s a good-looking development, and I hope it’s the one you go with, because I think that finding tenants for 40,000-square feet are becoming more few and far between,” referring to the approved spaces the 1983 plan allows for.
“For sure,” Bassali said. “I have businesses on Furys Ferry, and I could personally up 40,000-square feet with no problem, but I think this plan is better for the area.”
The planning staff did vote unanimously to recommend the revised plan for approval and the Board of Commissioners will discuss the matter on Oct. 19.