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Council undecided on new Parker's
Residents don't want Fair Road gas station; property owners threaten lawsuit if plan is denied
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For the second time in as many meetings, a vocal neighborhood association rallied at City Hall to urge that Statesboro City Council strike down requests allowing for a Parker’s convenience store and gas station on Fair Road.

Also for a second time, both supporters and opponents of the project went home with no resolution.
Tuesday, after a public hearing that lasted for more than an hour — giving both sides the chance to speak — Statesboro City Council tabled a decision, to allow themselves, and City Attorney Alvin Leaphart, two additional weeks to reach a verdict and adopt a resolution that backs it.

Council also tabled a decision in July, with hopes that the involved parties would reach a compromise.

“Since we have been informed that our decision could prompt litigation, my recommendation would be that City Council defer judgment until the next meeting so that a written opinion can be provided at that time,” Leaphart advised. “It would be more appropriate.”

Conflict in the chambers has centered on zoning requests for three parcels of land located on Herty Drive and Catherine Avenue, next to Fair Road.

Owners of the properties would like to rezone tracts — currently reserved for single-family residential housing — for commercial/retail use, combine them, and sell the land The Parker Company for use as a Parker’s store.

The Parker’s would be accessible only to vehicle’s passing on Fair Road.

Adjacent homeowners, though, say the new business has no place in their community.

More than a dozen residents representing Pittman Park, Woodlawn Estates, Windwood and Edgewood Acres neighborhood associations attended Tuesday’s meeting to show their opposition.

“We want to protect the integrity of our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Cathy Shriver, representing Woodlawn. “We feel that once you rezone one property on Fair Road as commercial, it opens the door to many more. So we are very concerned.”

Said Bob Marsh, who lives near the location: “Everyone living in the area who I have talked to — homeowners and students — oppose this; and I don’t see any good coming of it.”
Proponents of the store argue that rezoning is best for homeowners seeking the change, those living nearby, and the city as a whole.

Attorney Laura Marsh spoke for the zoning applicants.

“The applicants have demonstrated that the requested rezoning is compatible with the uses of nearby properties. This would not be spot zoning,” she said. “Secondly, the rezone of this property will actually increase the property values of surrounding property. This decision must be based on what is best for the entire public, as a whole — not just the neighbors.”

Marsh said not rezoning the properties would create a “very real hardship” for the property owners, who have tried for several years, unsuccessfully, to sell the land as  currently zoned.
Richard Johnson, who owns one of the tracts in question, said buyers are only interested in the land for its commercial possibilities.

“I think it is impossible to sell this property as a single-family residential property,” he said.
Residents of the Pittman Park area have successfully staved off comparable proposals in recent years, preventing an office building, a Salvation Army store, and another gas station from setting up shop in various locations.

Attorney Bob Mikell, representing the surrounding neighborhood associations, encouraged council to deny the zoning changes, as they have before.

“It is legitimate, and of valid public interest, to want to aggressively protect residential neighborhoods,” he said. “I ask the council, as it has done in the past, to continue to affirm its commitment to residential neighborhoods.”

Marsh reaffirmed to council Tuesday that a vote against rezoning would prompt her clients to seek litigation.

Council denies hair salon
One zoning debate was settled Tuesday by council. Residents of the Fletcher Drive community prevented a special exemption permit that would have allowed a small hair salon operate in their neighborhood — hair salons are not allowed, by ordinance, in residential areas (barring an exception).

A majority of council sided in favor of residents, who showed in force to voice their opposition.

The neighborhood resistance, and subsequent council vote, was a disappointment to Councilman Gary Lewis, who felt the woman applying for the exemption should have been given an opportunity to start her business.

“This girl wants to do right and open a business on her own family’s land. This salon is not going to cause problems, people. Give her a chance, councilmen. Give her a chance, neighborhood,” Lewis said, before issuing the lone dissenting vote. “This is her family’s own land. And, now she can’t put a business on that land. I have got a problem with that.”

Residents feared — despite the fact that an exemption applies only to one person, and is limited to the one use — that approval of the proposal would open the door for future commercial encroachment.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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