Pinewood Studios auditions for 289-acre rezoning tonight

A plan to rezone 289 acres in rural central Fayette County to make way for a multi-million dollar movie studio complex will be up for a vote before the Fayette County Commission tonight (March 28).

The project is expected to bring roughly 2,000 jobs to the county once it gets up to full steam and upwards of 150 in the first phase alone.

The site is located directly across Sandy Creek Road from Rivers Elementary School, which may in the future become an annex of the Savannah College of Art and Design to teach the art of television and film production.

The planning commission and county zoning staff are recommending approval of the request, which would change the zoning from agriculture-reserve and R-70 residential to GB, the county’s brand-new General Business zoning classification.

Pinewood Studios, headquartered in London, England, wants to make Fayette County its home base of operations in the United States. The specific location is at the intersection of Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway. Veterans Parkway is also known as the “West Fayetteville Bypass.”

Local officials have been working on the plans, dubbed “Project Stargate,” for over a year. If the rezoning is approved by the commission, Pinewood plans to begin construction next month at an estimated cost of $23 million.

Although it is apparently not necessary for the first phase, the developer has informed the county that a heliport may be needed for the site in the future. That solitary fact gives a glimpse into the size, scope and importance of the project.

The developer is proposing a 100-foot screening area along Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway to buffer the development from adjacent lots. In that area, the developer is proposing a 10-foot wide multi-use path for public use, although there are no other paths currently in the area for the site to connect to.

The first phase will disturb only 71 acres for construction of five soundstages in four buildings with attached production office space and two workshop buildings, leaving the remaining 217 acres undeveloped. The site includes about 78 acres of wetlands as well.

County staff is also recommending additional landscaping along a 30-foot wide area along the eastern side of the power line easement from Sandy Creek Road. The floodplain of Sandy Creek provides separation from properties to the south, according to county planning staff.

According to a Pinewood official, the studio will be operating mostly between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. although there will be occasional night shoots. There are 381 parking spaces planned for the first phase of the project.

County officials have noted that the film industry will hire from a wide range of occupations including tradesmen, technicians, professionals and executives.

County planning staff have also lauded Pinewood for proposing architectural codes and regulations for the development which will “achieve a unique look and character for the buildings and site.”

Two local architecture firms were engaged to design the project: Historical Concepts and Foley Design Architects.

The largest buildings will reach a height of 65 feet, which will require an amendment of the GB zoning restrictions, and the county may also need to amend its sign ordinance to handle the proposed signage for the site.

As for traffic, Pinewood officials do not anticipate any unnecessary congestion along either Sandy Creek Road or Veterans Parkway.

Developers are hoping to secure an annexation into the city of Fayetteville so the site can be linked to the city’s sewer system, but there is a contingency plan in case that does not occur.

Pinewood plans to work with local schools, colleges and universities to help students pursuing careers in film, TV and other creative industries, according to a pitch letter from the company.

In addition to shooting on the soundstages, Pinewood will offer back lots and facilities for pre-production and post-production. Pinewood has a reputation for setting up a one-stop shop for producers looking to shoot TV and movie productions.

Pinewood, however, does not finance productions. Rather, it leases space to interested companies instead.

Husband and Fat...
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Joined: 07/23/2012
In 3 months time

In 3 months time, a lot has changed.

Mr. Ognio ran for commission with a platform stating
1. The WFB is totally ineffective
2. The only people benefiting are the developers and speculators
3. Hundreds of residents came to meetings protesting the bypass
4. The WFB wasted millions of dollars
5. Against the creation of the storm water fee that even non profits and churches must pay into.
6. Stated in the July 15, 2010 Citizen paper that Jack Smith has the PTC mafia votes in favor of the WFB.

Mr. Ognio, is the road still ineffective? Are the developers and speculators the only ones benefitting? Why are you not following up on the support for the hundreds of people who protested the bypass? Is the WFB still a waste? Perhaps the PTC mafia with their business expertise, knew a little more than you thought.

Mr. Barlow ran for commission with a platform stating
1. No special interests
2. Accountable and Transparent
3. Stated in his March 17, 2012 letter that "I totally oppose the continuing on to the next phase of the WFB"

Mr. Barlow: Thought you totally opposed the WFB? Transparent, Right. You haven't explained why it is good now. Has there been studies done to address the traffic? Has there been studies to see how many people will move into the area and add to our traffic woes. Has any study been done to see how this will affect our schools?

Mr. Browns earlier platform
1. Preserve FC's rural character
2. Stated that the WFB has no verifiable benefit except for developers, builders, and the banks.
3. Claimed on 9/28/11 the bypass was a developers welfare project but offered no statistics to support this claim. In the same article, a past commissioner was quoted as saying the road was needed for the county's future.

Mr. Brown: Is it now ok to change the county's planned zoning from agriculture and residential to General Business? Is this preserving the rural characteristics? Do you now think that the WFB may be a verifiable benefit to the county? What can you say concerning the former commissioners quote on 9/28/11 supporting the road for the county's future? Did the other commissioners have a vision that you couldn't see?

Yes, a lot has changed in 3 months time. All of the self proclaimed free thinkers all seem to be in lock step with one another abandoning key items from their political platforms. No questions, no concerns, nothing. Transparent? perhaps, or perhaps not. We will see.

To clarify, I am in favor of Pinewood Studios for economic reasons only. I would like to know if there are any economic packages the county has on the table to secure this development that we have not yet been privy to know.

tikigod
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Joined: 04/19/2006
As a realist

As a realist, I try to make sure I see the positive and negative in things. Normally, my cynical side wins out and it tends to be right. With this development, I haven't really can't see how any aspect of this studio has a negative consequence for the county. All I can think of is overwhelmingly positive benefits.

What an incredible blessing for the county. I hope, and think, this will be the catalyst to turn this county back into a positive direction.

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