While the construction of new apartment complexes in the area continues at breakneck speed, the proposed expansion of one complex recently presented a dilemma for an adjacent property owner.
In September at a Statesboro City Council meeting, Millhouse Steak House restaurant owner Tom Jones spoke against the rezoning of the parcel directly behind his restaurant from commercial retail to high density residential. The 1.2-acre parcel was purchased by Copper Beech Town Home Communities, LLP for $149,000 per acre.
According to the meeting minutes, the debate was mainly about the restaurant using the vacant 1.2-acre lot for additional parking. The council voted to approve the request of Copper Beech.
"In 2003, that parcel was purchased by the owner of the Shell House which was the initial restaurant concept opened where the Millhouse is today," said local engineer Joey Maxwell, who is working with Copper Beech executives on the expansion of the apartment complex. "The parcel has been for sale for a number of years, and finally Copper Beech purchased it in tandem with another 5.8 acres."
Maxwell said Jones was concerned that he would not have enough parking once the land was developed.
"I can certainly understand why he was concerned, but the property was for sale for a relatively long period of time," he said. "In a dynamic market like this one, property eventually sells."
According to Maxwell, site work for the construction of the additional Copper Beech apartments is slated to begin in the next two weeks. Statesboro city engineer Robert Cheshire said final site plans have been submitted to the city's engineering department for approval.
"According to the plans we have received, there will be ten buildings constructed with 82 units totaling 262 beds," he said. "Currently, the complex has 216 units with 754 beds. I would qualify this as a major expansion for them."
Maxwell said he feels that a reasonable compromise was obtained during the rezoning process.
"There is a small piece of property that was co-owned by Copper Beech and the owners of the Millhouse that is adjacent to the side of the Millhouse property," he said. "It has been used for storm water detention. Copper Beech deeded their interest in it to the Millhouse, and then rerouted their storm water detention to the east side of their property. It is my understanding that the storm water detention acreage deeded to the Millhouse can be reworked, and parking created. However, there would be costs involved for them, but it is a solution."
Local real estate agent Jack Conner was involved with the sale of the property to Copper Beech.
"I have to say that the city bent over backwards trying to make this work for both parties," he said. "City management has just been awesome, and hopefully everybody's interests have been served. They are really trying to look for solutions."
Potentially compounding the parking availability in the area will be the opening of Fuzzy's Taco Shop in the former location of Sonny's Barbeque, adjacent to Millhouse.
"Even though there isn't nearly as much new development in the hopper as there has been in the last year or so, Statesboro is still a very attractive market, and you have to plan accordingly to protect your interests," Maxwell said.
Millhouse owner Tom Jones could not be reached for comment.