Kohl’s, other retailers approved for Fischer Crossings
After several years of hearings and meetings the final sticking points for the last, and arguably the most controversial, portion of the massive Fischer Crossings commercial development in east Coweta County was settled April 5 when the Coweta County Commission gave unanimous approval to an agreement between developer Scott Seymour and the Featherston Fishing Club.
That approval resulted in the rezoning of approximately 85 acres that will be home to nearly a quarter-million square feet of commercial space to be anchored by a 64,000 square-foot Kohl’s department store.
Fischer Crossings is located at the intersection of Fischer Road and Ga. highways 34 and 54 in extreme east Coweta County, less than a mile from Fayette County and Peachtree City. Previously approved for the northeast, northwest and southwest corners of the intersection, the development at eventual build-out will total approximately 800,000 square feet.
Seymour has been no stranger to rezoning hearings before the commission. Those hearings and a number of approvals to various portions of the large commercial project began in 2006. More recently, in late 2010, Seymour filed suit against the county after a rezoning and road abandonment request related to the Kohl’s location was denied by the County Commission on a 3-2 vote. The suit claimed that the denial by commissioners substantially and unreasonably diminished the value of the property and restricted its use.
The commission in the Sept. 21 split vote sided with the property owners of the long-established Featherston Fishing Club at Wynn’s Pond to deny the request to rezone a portion of the Kohl’s site from rural conservation to commercial, a move that would have resulted in the establishment of 225,500 square feet of commercial space for Kohl’s and other retailers.
The small Wynn’s Pond community is located east of the Fischer Crossings development and borders Line Creek and Fayette County. A portion of Wynn’s Pond Road, one of the objects of contention between the parties, intersects with Fischer Road to the west as it bisects the northeast corner of the Fischer and Hwy. 34 property, the location where Kohl’s and other retailers were to be located.
Based on a consent order from Coweta County Superior Court, Featherston and Seymour have been meeting to resolve the outstanding issues. That resolution brought the parties back before the County Commission April 5. Both Seymour and Featherston property owner and Newnan attorney Theo Mann were present at the meeting. The vote to approve the rezoning was 4-0, with Commissioner Bob Blackburn recusing himself because he owns property at Wynn’s Pond.
The approval by commissioners came with 21 conditions to be the responsibility of the developer. One of the conditions pertains to the area of Wynn’s Pond Road from Fischer Road to the east side of the area where Kohl’s and other retailers will be located. That portion of Wynn’s Pond Road will be closed and will become an interparcel access road. The area to the east of the retail, where Wynn’s Pond Road continues east into the residential development, will be gated and accessible only by Wynn’s Pond residents and Coweta County emergency personnel.
Also in conjunction with the road closure will be the installation of a median cut along Hwy. 54 just to the east of the development where the other end of Wynn’s Pond Road intersects with Hwy. 54 approximately two-tenths of a mile from Line Creek and Fayette County. Georgia Dept. of Transportation has given approval for the median cut.
The ball fields on the extreme north side of the northeast corner, and immediately to the north of Kohl’s, will be deeded in perpetuity for use as community ball fields, according to the agreement.
Other conditions included the construction of a six-foot black-coated fence along the north and east sides of the 85-acre area along with a 100-foot natural buffer and an additional 50-foot planted buffer.
A future traffic signal on Fischer Road north of Hwy. 34 will be installed, if traffic conditions warrant, at the expense of the developer.
Both Mann and Seymour told commissioners that the agreement on the conditions had been reached. There were no community members who spoke in opposition to the agreement during the public hearing portion of the meeting.
For his part, Seymour after the meeting said he is ready to get down to the business of bringing new shopping, dining and recreational opportunities to the Coweta and Fayette communities.
“I’m glad it worked out. We can finally start moving forward with these projects,” Seymour said.
Seymour in September addressed the economic impact of Fischer Crossings with the release of a report entitled “The Economic Impact of Fischer Crossings Shopping Center on Coweta County” compiled by Dr. William Smith and Dr. Hilde Patrol-Boenheim, both of the University of West Georgia’s Department of Economics.
In total, the Fischer Crossing is situated in five pods. Pod A is located on the extreme eastern portion of the northeast corner of Fischer Road and Hwy. 54 and includes the NCG Cinemas expected to open in the coming weeks, a proposed aquatic center and two outparcels, all totaling more than 60,000 square feet and projected to employ 100 with annual wages estimated at $1.5 million. The 10-screen cinema itself totals 40,000 square feet and will employ 50 people.
Pod B is located a short distance to the west on the immediate northeast corner of Hwy. 34 and Fischer Road. The area will be the location of the Kohl’s, a proposed sporting goods store, other retail outlets and six outparcels totaling approximately 225,000 square feet. Kohl’s in late 2010 provided a letter of intent to establish a presence at Fischer Crossings and, with the approval by commissioners, is expected to see initial stages of work on the new store site in the coming weeks.
According to the University of West Georgia report, Pod B at build-out will employ 310 people with wages totaling $6.75 million.
Pod C is the proposed location of the ball fields and a daycare facility immediately to the north of Pod B and bordering Fischer Road. Pod C will be the site of a 12,500 square-foot day care center along with community ball fields. The daycare facility is expected to employ 15 people with wages totaling $206,000. The ball fields will be deeded in perpetuity for use by community ball teams.
Pod D is situated on the northwest portion of the property and includes the recently opened 136,000 square-foot Sam’s Club along with retail stores and a restaurant, all totaling 158,000 square feet and employing 233 people with wages totaling $5.2 million.
Pod E is located on the southwest corner of Fischer Road and Hwy. 34 and currently has no commercial space under development. The report noted that, once developed, the pod will include retail stores, a bank and restaurant totaling approximately 300,000 square feet and providing 320 jobs with an estimated payroll of $7.5 million.
As significant as the shopping, jobs and wages that the development at build-out is expected to bring are the tax revenues that will be collected for Coweta County.
“(When) fully operational, property tax revenues are estimated to be $2 million or 6.5 percent of total county property taxes. Sales tax revenues are estimated to be $5.1 million or 27.7 percent of current sales tax revenues. Thus, local revenues (sales and property taxes) generated by the operational phase is estimated to be between $5.2 and $7.1 million annually, or between 8.7 and 11.9 percent of total county revenues,” the University of West Georgia report said.
While not part of the report, there is yet another factor that figures into the sales tax equation. It involves the business reality that, when it comes to shopping, dining and entertainment preferences and convenience, county lines have long since evaporated. In that regard, the Fischer Crossing development will doubtless draw significant numbers of Fayette County’s 107,000 residents, including those living in Peachtree City less than a mile away.
A survey conducted by The Citizen during the recent opening week of the Sam’s Club store showed that 39 percent of the vehicles came from Coweta County while 40 percent were from Fayette County.
Commenting recently on the Fischer Crossings project and the impact for Coweta County, Atlanta-based commercial realty broker Kirk Buttle said that, aside from strip centers with grocery stores, Fischer Crossing is the only large-scale commercial project underway anywhere in the northern half of Georgia.