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Council denies Fair Road development

Residential/retail plan falls short

    For the fourth time, the Statesboro City Council has voted down a development proposal for a parcel of land on Fair Road across from Georgia Southern University.
    Situated between Herty Drive and Catherine Avenue on Fair Road, the developers sought to tear down the existing structures and build a mixed-use property. The 12,000-square-foot  proposed building included six retail spots on the bottom floor with residential condominiums on top.
    Caesar Rodriguez, one of the developers, said he was disappointed with the council's decision.
    "We're speechless now," said Rodriguez. "We thought the plan was a good transition from commercial to single-family residential."
    The council voted 4-1 last week to deny the zoning request. The planning staff had recommended conditional approval.
    Councilman John Morris explained why he was the lone vote in favor of the development.
    "I feel it would be progress for the city," said Morris. "Realistically, there won't be any other single family residences developed on this property. We need to put something there that buffers the residential area from Fair Road. That was the reason for my vote."
    During the planning and zoning meeting discussion for this request, Planning Director Jim Shaw said that the amount of traffic carried by Fair Road greatly reduced the desirability for single family adjacent to the road. He also said the residential part of the development would equate to a density of six units per acre, which seemed justified being adjacent to Fair Road.
    According to a study by the developers, Fair Road carries over 26,000 cars by the property daily.
    Councilman Will Britt, normally a proponent of development, voted against the proposal.
    "I thought it was a good idea, but after seeing the height of the building and seeing the residents [I voted against]," said Britt. "This is the closest it's ever come."
    The developers had agreed to buffer the building from their neighbors by erecting a seven-foot fence and providing a 10-foot buffer planted with evergreen shrubs on the single-family residential side and shade trees on both sides of the fence. In addition, the developers would have not have been able to used vinyl or metal siding, making for an up-scale exterior.
    "This would have been what we call a neighborhood center," said Rodriguez. "It would have served the neighborhood in the immediate area behind the center, across the street and the students.
    The developers thought this project would have stabilized the area.
    "When we looked at the property, we liked having the residential area back there," said Charles Lesley, another representative for the developers.
    "But what it's turning into, to a great extent, is rental. When you drive through it's apparent, you see three or four cars in the yard. That's not your typical owner-occupied residential development. Our feeling was that if this had been approved, it would have stabilized the neighborhood."
    The last time these parcels were in front of the city council was in January. At that meeting, another developer had come before the city to request a rezoning in order to put in a convenience store and gas station. At that time, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval, however the council voted that proposal down as well.

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