Kohl’s, ballfields up for grabs at Fischer Crossing

It’s all boiling down to a preference of old versus new. And it looks like the future of the Kohl’s department store and the remaining 225,000 square feet of retail and three community football fields proposed for location in the northeast section of the previously approved Fischer Crossing retail development in east Coweta will be a matter of whether Coweta County commissioners side with the small, but long-established owners of the Featherston Fishing Club at Wynn’s Pond who oppose the project. The issue was discussed Thursday and will continue Sept. 21.

Commissioners Thursday night took up the issue of the proposed rezoning of a small section of the much larger retail center at Fischer Road and Ga. Highway 34 and the rerouting of the portion of Wynn’s Pond Road near Fischer Road. A conditional use request that would establish the football fields and a daycare center are also expected to be considered on Sept. 21.

As currently configured, Wynn’s Pond Road separates the previously approved retail for the immediate northeast corner of the development from the retail and ballfields immediately to the north that constitute the proposal under consideration.

The board Thursday conducted public hearings on the request by the Fischer Crossing Development Group. The request would locate an additional 225,500 square feet of commercial space for Kohl’s, T.J. Maxx and other retailers in a portion of the 35-acre site located just north of the northeast corner of Fischer Road and Hwy. 34.

Other portions of the Fischer Crossing development include the Sam’s Club and NCG Cinemas now under construction. In total, commissioners previously approved several hundred thousand square feet of retail for the expansive development that was indicated in the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Map.

The rezoning and road abandonment requests were recommended for approval last week by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals but recommended for denial by the county Planning and Zoning Department. The recommendation for denial was based significantly on an agreement approved by commissioners in 2006 and 2007 designed to protect Wynn’s Pond Road and the adjacent historic neighborhood and the failure of the developer to obtain 100 percent agreement of the Wynn’s Pond community. Another reason for the recommendation cited concerns that Wynn’s Pond Road, if rerouted to the north, would affect future transportation funding.

The area for the proposed location of Kohl’s and other retailers was originally designated for use as a wastewater treatment area. That use changed when developer Scott Seymour bought in to the county sewer system. At that point the property reverted back to its Rural Conservation (RC) zoning. Seymour now wants to expand the retail into a portion of that area, with project representatives citing changes in retail requirements that give developers the ability to lure businesses.

The public comments portion of the three-hour meeting included numerous speakers on both sides of the issue. Featherston Fishing Club representatives clearly noted the private community’s longstanding presence on the Coweta County side of Wynn’s Pond and their desire not to have Wynn’s Pond Road rerouted. Fishing club President Theo Mann noted the organization’s century-long ownership of the Wynn’s Pond property, adding that his group had worked with commissioners in recent years to include the conditions that prohibited the rerouting of Wynn’s Pond Road.

Speaking on the conditional use request pertaining to the ballfields, board of trustees member Pat McKee said the use of that area for recreation is an illusion, adding of Seymour that, “As certain as night follows day, he’ll be back,” to request additional development to pay off creditors.
Responding later in the meeting to that assertion, project representative and Atlanta-based CBRE Vice President Kirk Buttle said the 14-acre property for the ballfields would be recorded as perpetual easement so that the land could not be used for any other purpose than recreational.

Others during the public hearing spoke in favor of the proposal. Among those were business owners, residents of neighborhoods and athletic coaches. One of those said his organization had 400 members who have been looking unsuccessfully for three years to find a place to play football.

Another speaker during public comments who later taking questions from commissioners was Kohl’s real estate broker Van Westmoreland, who told the board that Kohl’s has signed a Letter of Intent to locate at Fischer Crossing. And unlike Wynn’s Pond supporter and landscape architect Dennis Drewyer who suggested that Kohl’s could locate in the area to the south already zoned for retail, Westmoreland told commissioners that Kohl’s would not be interested in locating in that area. Westmoreland said Kohl’s had looked at that possibility but found it unfeasible.

At one point during the discussion, Commissioner Randolph Collins suggested that a significant reason for having the retail development located where it is was to benefit Peachtree City for shopping purposes. Collins did not mention the large percentage of Coweta residents living in the eastern portion of the county, many of whom live closer to Fischer Crossing than to Ashley Park in Newnan, the county’s other large retail venue.

Though mentioned at the meeting by project attorney Mark Forsling, the economic impact study by economists from the University of West Georgia received virtually no comment or questions during the meeting.

Buttle, however, in noting the adverse effects of the recession on business development around the state, did tell commissioners that there are no communities or cities with projects like the one at Fischer Crossing happening anywhere in north Georgia today.

Seymour last week released an economic impact report on the Fischer Crossing development, including the portion of the development that is the subject of the Sept. 16 public hearing. The 16-page report, entitled “The Economic Impact of Fischer Crossing Shopping Center on Coweta County” was compiled by Dr. William Smith and Dr. Hilde Patrol-Boenheim, both of the University of West Georgia’s Department of Economics.

The study divides the entire Fischer Crossing development into pod areas for purposes of gauging job creation and economic impact. Pertinent to the rezoning and road abandonment request is Pod B and Pod C. Pod B would be the location of the Kohl’s, T.J Maxx, a sporting goods store, other retail outlets and a restaurant. The southernmost portion of Pod B is situated in the property already rezoned. The northernmost portion, along with all of Pod C, is situated in the property up for review by commissioners. It is in this portion of Pod B that the Kohl’s store would serve as the anchor, along with three large retail buildings to the east. Pod C is the proposed location of the three football fields and a daycare facility.  

According to the University of West Georgia report, Pod B in total would contain more than 270,000 square feet of commercial space and employ 310 people with wages totaling $6.75 million. Pod C would be the site of a 12,500 square-foot day care center along with the three football fields. The daycare facility would employ 15 people with wages totaling $206,000. The football fields would be used by community teams.

In total, the Fischer Crossing is situated in five pods. Of the remaining previously approved portions of the property, Pod A is located on the extreme eastern portion of the northeast corner of Fischer Road and Hwy. 34 and includes the NCG Cinemas now under construction, an aquatic center and other retail outlets, all totaling more than 60,000 square feet and projected to employ 100 with annual wages estimated at $1.5 million.

Pod D is situated on the northwest portion of the property and includes the Sam’s Club, also currently under construction, 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 the development 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 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 is expected to bring are the tax revenues that would be collected for Coweta County. The report notes the difference in property tax revenues and sales tax revenues depending on the decision of commissioners to deny the current request and keep the development as it currently stands or whether they approve the current requests and allow for the expansion of Pod B and the creation of Pod C.

“If partially developed as specified, Coweta County property tax revenues are estimated to be $1.2 million or 3.9 percent of current property tax revenues, the majority of which will remain at the local level. County sales tax revenues are estimated to be $4 million or about 21.7 percent of current sales tax revenues,” the report said. “If fully operational, property tax revenues are estimated to be $2 million or 6.5 percent of total 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.”

While not part of the report, there is yet another factor that figures into the sales tax equation. It is one that comes with the business reality that, when it comes to shopping, dining and entertainment preferences and convenience, county lines have long since evaporated. In that regard, it is undeniable that the Fischer Crossing development is likely to draw significant numbers of Fayette County’s estimated 107,000 residents, including those living in Peachtree City less than a mile away.

Meantime in other areas of the Fischer Crossing retail development, construction on the 136,000 square-foot Sam’s Club store on the northwest corner of Fischer Road and Hwy. 34 is now well underway.

The proposed project has received a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) approval with conditions from the Three Rivers Regional Commission along with approval with conditions from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA).

Commissioners will continue the public hearings Sept. 21 and are expected to make a decision.

father time
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Scott Seymour Developer

The developer Scott Seymour is a lying thief. Ask any of those involved in his project located at Andrew Bailey Road. He left several of us hard working subcontractors holding the bag. The building is not suitable for finishing and he files bankruptcy clearing his debt from us. How do people(and I use that term lightly for him) get away with this. It is legal robeery in my opinion. Doesn't make a lot of sense.

Courthouserules
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father time

Where do you propose that this developer get the money to re-pay you and all the others? A judgment would be of no use to you, you would never collect it.
Maybe you could make his life miserable for the rest of your life in some way, but is that the right thing to do?

It boils down to the fact that you dealt with a developer in a way that if he defaulted you also lost. You put too much in before collecting, just as he did!

If we tried to put all people of this sort in jail as punishment there wouldn't be room due to the bankers and wall street guys already there!

scottandcarie1
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Follow up to Ben's comments

Thanks, Ben for your response. I know that you are right that given the current zoning and construction already going on, that this area is going to experience significant traffic and congestion, whether the rezoning is approved or not.

I think my most specific concern is the addition of the athletic fields and the daycare center and the ADDITIONAL traffic and congestion that they will bring. The gentleman with the Sharpsburg football league testified that his league had 400 players looking for a place to play football in Coweta County. Imagine 400 + cars trying to squeeze into and out of a 10 acre area in addition to the retail traffic that will already be there. There are other places in Coweta that could be used for athletic fields...how about the moonscapes near Thomas Crossroads?

I'll give the developer's spokesman credit. If he ever needs a new job, he'd be a great used car salesman. They don't give a rat's behind if athletic fields are added or not...it's not going to make them any money, but it helps to sell the rezoning request because who wants to say no to the poor children that have nowhere to play?

Thank you for your coverage of this issue. I know that folks, including myself, have strong opinions about development and its impact...sometimes good and sometimes not so good. That's what's great about America...everyone has an opportunity to shape the community they live in, and I am appreciative of that.

Ben Nelms
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Fischer Crossing

scottandcarie1... thanks for writing in. What might not have been evident at the meeting Thursday, depending on how closely the residents in Coweta and Fayette have followed this development over the past few years, is that the current proposal (Kohl’s, etc.), while significant in terms of square footage, is only the most recent of the development proposals at Fischer Crossing that began a few years ago. Even if/when the commission turns it down there were already several hundred thousand square feet of retail, as the story notes, that were already approved for development in the past. So the traffic is coming with or without the current proposal. Kohl’s, T.J. Maxx and the others would certainly draw large numbers of customers (including Fayette residents whose sales taxes will only benefit Coweta residents), but the really big draw will be the 136,000 square-foot Sam’s Club already under construction and expected to open in early 2011. Beyond that, the theaters (opening around Thanksgiving), the aquatic center and the other businesses on three of the four corners of Hwy. 34 and Fischer Road (once again, already approved by commissioners) will draw even more once they are built and open for business.
There is something that I noticed over my five years covering news items in this area. And in many ways its kind of sad. The primary reason these counties developed and, consequently, the reason many of us live here now, is because we are a couple of dozen miles away from the Gold Dome, living in what is arguably the fastest (or certainly one of the fastest) growing metro areas in this country in the past three decades... hence the growth and the construction of subdivisions in areas that include much of Coweta and Fayette that would otherwise still be pasture land. The growth of Atlanta means the growth of the outlying counties; and the greatest amount of commercial growth that follows the residential always comes in proximity to major highway corridors like Hwy. 34 (which is why a portion of the Fischer Crossing area is listed in the county’s 2006-2026 Comprehensive Plan as a major commercial corridor).
The especially sad part, at least for me, is that people move to what used to be the outer metro counties (like Fayette and Coweta) only to find a few years later that those counties are becoming more suburban than rural, and with the accompanying businesses to serve them. This is not going to change whether I want it to or not. Case in point (and the effects of the recession notwithstanding), Coweta’s population somewhere around mid-century is projected at around 300,000. That’s compared to the 127,000 today (U.S. Census 2009 estimate.) And this is why some in both these counties have already moved further out, further away from the Gold Dome that sits in the middle of the omnidirectional metro Atlanta that now includes 28 counties... and growing.

Courthouserules
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Ben Nelms

You are partially correct about the Golden Dome. However there is more to it.
If you want 50 years of privacy then don't buy or build anywhere near a major airport or an Interstate highway.Peachtree City is 10 miles from an Interstate Highway and 25 from a very major airport.

Those numbers aren't near enough to last very long.

We are now at 310,000,000 people, double approximately what we had in 1950.
The next doubling will be much quicker than that.

Only one or two generation usually worries much about such things--that would be our Mothers and Grandmothers. Don't know why since they won't notice much in the rest of their lifetime! Memories will mean nothing to the dead and the kids won't care!

scottandcarie1
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Not in my neighborhood

I attended and testified at this hearing. What the reporter failed to note was the concerned expressed by the residents of the neighborhoods in the immediate area. The existing zoning will already create additional traffic and congestion and likely bring crime to the area. There is no need to further exacerbate these problems with further expansion of more retail space that is not needed. Fisher Road and the surrounding community is a rural area...not a commercial district. It is not fair to the families who moved to this area to enjoy a rural lifestyle to have big box development in their backyards. If I had moved to an area where commercial development was close, I wouldn't have much of an argument to complain when the development expands. But when I moved here in 1998 (and based on more recent reviews of the county's land use plan), this area was supposed to remain zoned as rural reserved or rural conservation. I hope the Commission does the right thing and follows the recommendation of their Planning Department, which is to deny this request. And the developer and the people who testified in favor of this zoning approval? Yep, they don't live around here. Apparently it's ok with them b/c it's not in their neighborhood.

ginga1414
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scottandcarie1, I Understand

I know exactly how you feel. My home sits in the middle of what used to be an old family farm. Some of my family members wanted to live close to each other so that we could help each other whenever the need arose. We each took a section of our 74 acre farm and built our homes. We have our own little dirt road, a lake and pasture land where family horses graze.

Twenty-five years ago a consulting firm told the county that they needed to build a road through our old family farm. It had only been one year since the last home on the farm had been built. That was my home. We couldn't have sold the farm and our individual homes if we had wanted to sell. There is a disclosure requirement that must be met whenever one tries to sell a home or property that will be impacted by roads, etc. Therefore, I have been fighting the West Fayetteville Bypass for the last 25 years.

Some of our neighbors, also, have pastureland and horses. Other folks along the route of the West Fayetteville Bypass live on quiet dirt roads with cattle and horses.

Our area of Fayette County was a very rural area 25 years ago, and in some respects it still is rural. Some old farm families with hundreds of acres to each farm have elected to sell their property to developers. That was their right. However, the smaller property and farm owners are the ones who are paying the price. We don't want to sell our land to the county, but if we don't, they will come and take it anyway. The road will provide developers with much desired road frontage.

The back of my personal 20 acres adjoins a huge tract owned by a developer who owns the largest acreage along the Bypass. That developer owns 350 acres along the Bypass. The developer already has ingress and egress to his property by way of Lee's Mill Rd. However, the county plans to run the road through the back 1/4 and entire length of my twenty acres. I will own completely unusable land on the other side of the Bypass but the developer will gain 3/4 mile of road frontage. Originally, the county intended to run the road directly through the middle of my property, leaving much of it unusable. The road would have run through my front yard, separating my home from the rest of our family neighborhood.

I know how you feel scottandcarie. I am sad for all of us. It is a shame and disgrace for people to have their way of life destroyed because of development. I wish you and your neighbors well. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

scottandcarie1
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Thanks for sharing your story

Thanks for sharing your story and for your support. Most of the time I think I am just wasting my time because this is likely already a "done deal", but I have to try. It's easy to complain about something, but harder to do something about it and I never want to be one of those folks who assumes someone else is going to do something about my troubles.

You sound like a resilient and tenacious family...I hope your continued battles have a positive outcome for you and your family. Godspeed!

PTC Observer
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scottandcarie1 - If

you want to live in the country, next time you had better buy 1,500 acres and live right in the middle of it.

normal
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Vacant land

If you move to an area with vacant land around you just beware. Anything could happen, Its all about the dollar not your personal little home. One way they should be happy company is spending money. When I moved here in 1979 the agent for Wieland homes told me all the vacant land in glenlock was single family homes for them to build on. We bought and then found out it was multi family and up went all the duplexes. That is why Ive never trusted real estate agents. They lie to get the sale, Oh and they lied to us 12 years ago when we moved to another area. So the bottom line is here comes the commercial centers at fishers rd. So you folks can try to sell or get arms training and a license to carry.

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