Wednesday, July 4, 2001
PTC OKs Home Depot/Wal-Mart deal
By JOHN MUNFORD
RAM Development and Peachtree City Mayor Bob Lenox signed a development agreement yesterday allowing for construction of the planned Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores on Ga. Highway 54 west across from the Planterra Ridge subdivision.
But as of Tuesday afternoon the agreement had yet to be signed by officials from Wal-Mart and Home Depot, said city public information officer Betsy Tyler. The document will be sent to the corporate offices of Wal-Mart and Home Depot for their review, she noted.
City Attorney Rick Lindsey said attorneys for Wal-Mart and Home Depot don't anticipate any problems in signing the development agreement. The document could be signed by officials from those companies as early as the end of this week or the beginning of next week, Lindsey said.
The agreement stipulates several conditions regarding the slate of road improvements the developers are required to fund, including:
All the road improvements must be completed prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy by the city for any building on the property.
The developers shall fund the connection using fiber optic cable of traffic signals on Hwy. 54 from MacDuff Parkway to The Avenue at Peachtree City; all these lights shall also be sequenced with all other traffic signals on Hwy. 54 extending eastbound to the intersection of Willowbend Road and Flat Creek Parkway.
If construction on the road improvements isn't underway by Aug. 15, there will be a meeting no later than Aug. 22 to determine a new date for construction to begin.
If permits and approvals from the state Department of Transportation cannot be obtained for a particular road improvement project, other projects may be chosen with approval from the city and the city's traffic engineer as long as the new project complies with the traffic impact ordinance.
Two out-parcel stores shown on the final site plan cannot be developed unless each property complies with the city's traffic impact ordinance.
There were no significant last-minute changes to the agreement, Lindsey added.
"Basically, this is the same document I drafted back in October," Lindsey said.
The recent negotiations dealt with including John Wieland Homes as one of the companies which will fund a traffic improvement project that is crucial to Wal-Mart and Home Depot meeting the guidelines of the city's traffic ordinance, Lindsey said. The agreement stipulates that John Wieland Homes will fund the construction of a eastbound right turn lane on Hwy. 54 beginning 200 feet to the west of Planterra Way and ending at the intersection of Huddleston Road, Lindsey said.
The other issue in the recent negotiations dealt with language requiring the status of the final site plans, which were approved by two members of the Planning Commission Monday night, Lindsey said.
At last week's City Council meeting, council unanimously authorized Mayor Bob Lenox to sign the agreement on the city's behalf.
Estimates for the traffic improvement projects slated for the area total over $1.5 million, all of which will be paid for by RAM Development according to the agreement.
The development agreement almost hit a snag Monday night as two planning commissioners reviewed the final site plans for both stores. Robert Ames and Jim Finney originally said they felt uncomfortable signing the documents since they only learned they were to review them earlier that day. Ames specifically said he would prefer to have several days to review the plans since the Planning Commission hasn't seen them in months.
Lindsey told Ames and Finney if the final site plan wasn't approved by the next morning, it would hinder the signing of the development agreement because that was one of the requirements listed in the agreement. Lindsey said he needed a concrete decision to bring back to the developers at yesterday's meeting.
Ames and Finney reviewed the plans with director of developmental services Jim Williams and city planner David Rast. After their questions were answered, the planning commissioners signed the documents.
The plans call for a scaled-back use of the "company colors" of the stores compared to other stores: the Home Depot orange and the Wal-Mart blue. Also, the Wal-Mart will be constructed with brick on all four sides while Home Depot will have brick on all sides except the side facing the CSX railroad track.
The development agreement and the status of the projects were discussed at Thursday night's City Council meeting.
The development agreement requires work to begin on the Hwy. 54/74 traffic improvements by Aug. 15 unless severe weather or other unforeseen circumstances crop up, City Manager Jim Basinger told council.
"My only concern in this is making sure there isn't anything we've forgotten," Mayor Lenox said, adding that city staff did a "marvelous job" in working with store officials to improve the plans.
City planner Rast said the most recent traffic study taking into account the Home Depot/Wal-Mart project was performed through a manual counting process. This allowed for the city's traffic consultant, URS, to consider which direction traffic was flowing, he said.
"They felt that is more accurate than a meter count," Rast said.
Rast presented council with a detailed summary of how the Wal-Mart and Home Depot plans have been handled by city officials. He said Home Depot officials have been more cooperative than their counterparts at Wal-Mart, but he believes the current state of the Wal-Mart plan is the best result the city will get.
"Some of the things we suggested fell on deaf ears," with Wal-Mart, Rast said.
The total number of parking spaces has been reduced by 200 and the stormwater retention capabilities of the site have been improved, Rast noted.
Also, officials for both stores have worked with the city regarding the architecture that will be used for both buildings, Rast said.
Home Depot officials agreed to expand the garden center so they could display items there which would normally be displayed on the front sidewalk of the store, Rast noted. The city's sign ordinance now features restrictions on products which can be displayed outdoors at commercial locations.
Developers will be required to replace so many trees along Hwy. 54 that the stores will likely be fully screened from view, Rast said.
"Home Depot and Wal-Mart both seem to be willing to work with us if items come up later that need to be addressed," he added.
Rast also reminded council that Home Depot had previously considered two other sites in Peachtree City: the current location of The Avenue at Peachtree City at City Circle and a site at the Kedron Village retail center.
Friday morning, Councilman Dan Tennant told The Citizen that he had decided not to support the development agreement after he read the document. He said he opposes the development of the stores "because building them now on a two-lane road is simply too dangerous for emergency vehicles to be able to circumvent the traffic nightmare, and doing so is not in the best interests of the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Peachtree City."
"I personally feel our traffic impact ordinance should have been utilized to delay both projects, and that a metered count by objective analysts would have determined that the traffic conditions would have been unacceptable to our minimum standards," Tennant said.