Fayette says it’s OK with Fayetteville’s Pinewood annexations

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Fayette County Commissioner Randy Ognio. File photo.
Fayette County Commissioner Randy Ognio. File photo.

Commissioner Ognio has some concerns: “I’m not really a fan of this plan.”

The Fayette County Board of Commissioners agreed at its March 26 meeting not to object to a pair of annexations into Fayetteville, but in doing so the board expressed a few concerns and asked city officials to take some specific steps regarding what will be developed in that area.

At issue were two small tracts of land on Veterans Parkway across from Pinewood Studios. Both are currently zoned R-70 and one of them will stay that way under city zoning, while the other will likely be rezoned to PCD (planned community development) in conjunction with a mixed-use project already planned in the vicinity of the site.

Commissioner Randy Ognio asked why the first piece of property was being annexed, and Frisina said while he did not have official word from the city, his assumption was that it would prevent the existence of an unincorporated island surrounded by city land, which is not permitted by law.

Ognio said he had a lot of concerns, calling the zoning there “wide open” and saying that it could develop into many things, including high-density housing. While he acknowledged that Pinewood is there, he said he felt that area would stay more rural. He also expressed misgivings about how the commercial development could potentially hurt downtown Fayetteville and the Hwy. 85 corridor, forcing businesses in those areas to close as customers go to the new locations.

“We would have a ghost town over here and a boom town over there,” he said. “I’m not really a fan of this plan.”

Brown said that Ognio made a lot of good points and noted that the county would have to trust Fayetteville not to allow an “overgrown retail” area there at the expense of Fayette Pavilion and other existing retail centers.

Chairman Charles Oddo asked Fayetteville Mayor Greg Clifton, who was in the audience at the meeting, to share his thoughts about the projects.

Clifton said the development would be primarily residential with some small shops contributing to a live/work/play environment. There are a couple of hotels planned and perhaps a small grocery store, he pointed out, adding that he shares the board’s concern about new development there drying up the downtown area.

As expansion of the Pinewood complex continues and film production increases over the next couple of years, Clifton said he hopes to see many of the people working there make the decision to live nearby as well. With the addition of a GMC campus that could eventually be that school’s largest along with recent news of expansion at nearby Piedmont Fayette Hospital, the residential component there could be very attractive, he said.

Brown asked if there was a chance the city could consider putting size limitations on retail units there, and Clifton said he would take that to the City Council for consideration.

With that, Brown moved to send official word to the city that the county did not object to the annexation, but with a request that the tunnel project be expedited and a maximum retail box size be considered. The motion passed 4-1, with Ognio in opposition.

In reviewing both annexation cases, county planning and zoning director Pete Frisina told the board that, while one of the sites would be changing to a more intensive zoning than what is currently there, it was consistent with the master plan for previously annexed adjacent property and concurs with the board’s previous action on annexations associated with Pinewood Studios.

Most of the board discussion centered on the second tract which would be changing to PCD zoning. Commissioner Steve Brown said he would like to see a focus on corporate and educational uses for much of that area rather than an overabundance of residential and/or retail uses.

Frisina pointed out that a tunnel under Veterans Parkway is planned for that location as well, and the area is to be developed as a “very walkable” community. It is also part of a Development of Regional Impact that will be presented to the Atlanta Regional Commissioner fairly soon, he said.

Brown then said that, if the board goes along with the annexation proposal, he would like to see some immediate action taken on the development of the tunnel.

“Getting it knocked out before beginning development on that site would be very beneficial and help the multi-use path infrastructure all around,” he said.