There was little understanding to be found at Peachtree City’s Planning Commission when it came time to discuss The Overlook retail development on the city’s west side with residents of the local neighborhoods.
Formerly known as the McIntosh Village retail center, the property was the subject of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last year between the developer Jim Lowe of Trinity Development and the city.
On September 22, 2011 the planning commission approved a concept plat for a retail subdivision on the property and the applicant began marketing the property as individual outparcels. A RaceTrac Neighborhood Market is currently under construction on the property at the intersection of SR 54 W and Line Creek Drive and Chik-fil-A is also under contract to purchase property near the site.
Lowe had been working with the city and with local representatives from the area’s subdivisions on a plan that would not only appeal to potential retailers for the 13-acre site, but also conform with the neighborhood and present a more evolved façade facing Ga. Highway 54.
Rast had said that in an effort to re-energize the concept of developing a retail center on the property, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with its specific parameters could help redesign the McIntosh Village property with neatly organized retail spaces and the prospect of one anchor store, which could be over 32,000 square feet. A store that size however, would require a special use permitting process and there’s no guarantee the city would approve it. Lowe didn’t anticipate the new plan being over 150,000 square feet or any one store taking up the 32,000 square feet.
The MOU also identified items that Southern Conservation Trust (SCT) wanted in exchange for allowing the access road through the nature area, including an information kiosk which could be located in the new retail center, directing patrons to the nature area.
After a series of meetings the MOU was drafted to include a number of items
the city the adjoining property owners the Southern Conservation Trust and
others desired to see incorporated into the retail development in exchange for
the abandonment of the internal roads and rights of way.
The proposal would give Trinity Development a clean slate to talk with potential retailers, with the roads gone, the internal lot lines demolished, it provides the flexibility for a more cohesive development of the property, according to Rast.
At one point during their initial discussions, Lowe had raised the possibility of an internal connection to Planterra Way, but it would change the Highway 54 master plan and would require an amendment, so it was discarded at the time the MOU was approved. Also, the Planterra homeowners were opposed to the suggestion.
At Monday’s meeting, Lowe presented a schematic site plan for a proposed modification of the MOU- a full movement access road with a connection to the Planterra Ridge subdivision, lining up with the existing median cut through the tennis center.
Lowe said that a prospective tenant- which while he failed to name because of ongoing negotiations, but has indicated would be a grocery store- has said that if Lowe would provide the access road, the development could be assured that particular anchor tenant. The MOU allows for a larger than 50,000 square foot building.
“We’re close. To the extent that they have said ‘if you get this, I’ll be there’. They would be a good community member.”
Lowe is still proposing a connection through the Conservation Trust property to the west. Lowe has already committed to making a number of improvements to the park.
“As part of MOU it’s requested for us to do a traffic study, which we just started. If light is ultimately warranted, a signal survey needs to come from the state, we would come to the city and request it from them.”
Planning commission member David Conner said he had been a proponent of a road through Line Creek, a road that cuts to Planterra, to mimic the road across the highway weaving through that retail center and to keep traffic off the highway.
“My biggest concern is the buffer on the back. I don’t want that to change.”
Vermillion Lane resident Karen Russell, however, representing the Planterra Ridge subdivision, wasn’t happy with the road proposal, especially considering the cut through of traffic already locking up traffic in the submission.
“Ever since this began, the residents of Planterra were against the cut-through. Just to mimic the other side of 54 is not a good enough reason. You are affecting the biggest subdivision in all of Peachtree City.”
She pointed out that when Hwy. 74 was undergoing renovation, the subdivision received so much traffic trying to bypass the area, the city was forced to install speed bumps. Nothing has changed since the intersection was improved.
“Between four and six, we can’t make a right hand turn off Planterra Way to get out on 54. Traffic is backed up past the tennis center. If you stand there, you’ll see that all the left-hand traffic is Coweta license plates coming out of the industrial park. It’s a safety issue for the children.”
At one point, said Russell, Lowe offered to pay for making Planterra a gated community, paying for the gates and electronics, but the city determined it was a public road and it can’t be gated.
Additionally, residents weren’t happy about the prospect of a 15 foot above-elevation retaining wall behind the development.
“So, what we had planned to have everything connected by pathways for pedestrians and golf carts, to make this at least cohesive, is not going to happen. You’re going to get runoff. We asked for outdoor seating to make people want to stay- a lot more landscaping and a lot less parking. A kiosk for Line Creek Nature Center - that’s not on here.
“Also they want to take the runoff from the shopping center, filter it and run it into the detention pond. They don’t have a detention pond.”
Russell said Lowe told them that if that couldn’t be accomplished, the third large retail building would be dropped and a pond put there.
“I’m not too happy with the plan.”
Lowe responded to the discussion of the runoff heading toward the fishing pond.
“We’re just throwing this out to the city. We heard talk that there were some concerns with the detention pond dam for the fishing pond. We, as a developer, would be willing to investigate repairing the dam at our cost. It it’s a win, we’ll pay to fix it. I don’t know what that number is, but it’s not a small one. We would ask for the ability to filter water before it left the site and use it as a place to manage water. If the city is not interested, it’s off the table. It sounded like a win-win to us.”
Lowe said the current plan to handle water was to chop off ‘retail c’ (the third store along the facility’s strip) and the pond will come back into play.”
Cardiff Park homeowners association representative - and former Peachtree City Planning Commissioner- Patrick Staples said that the presentation wasn’t even in a starting point for discussions with the developer because of the controversial elements in the presentation.
“The plan is totally unacceptable in terms of elevations from the back.”
Staples said that though they were disappointed at this starting point but was willing to work with the developer and the planning commission to make it work.
Commission chairman Frank DeStadio thanked Lowe for coming in and getting feedback from the residents in the neighborhood.
“I commend you for continuing to try. Obviously there are still concerns.”