Green light: TV-movie studio gets county OK

In a decision likely to change the fabric of Fayette County's future, the county commission Thursday night approved a rezoning that will allow a television and movie studio to be built on a large tract of farmland in the rural center of the county. Pinewood Studios plans to make a home on a 288-acre site at the intersection of Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway (also formerly known as the West Fayetteville Bypass).

The project is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the county as developers are hoping to include an education component, likely in conjunction with a Georgia college, that will teach the skills necessary to work in TV and movie production. While an often overlooked part of the proposal, this education component will be key to providing jobs for area residents because of the current and future demand in the TV and movie production arena.

Construction will begin as early as next month as Pinewood hopes to be up and running with its first phase by January 2014. The developers who are in charge of building the campus have pledged to maintain the rural character of the area.

The buildings will be set several football fields away from the roads and there will be parking spaces for 283 cars along with overflow parking. Also on the plans is a multi-use path similar to Peachtree City’s golf cart paths that would link up with a future network that will lead to Piedmont Fayette Hospital and beyond. The developers have promised to build a tunnel underneath Sandy Creek Road to extend the path northward.

The studio parcel, which is directly across from Rivers Elementary School, was actually used the past week to film a pilot for a TV show on the ABC network as the production used the rural, undeveloped character of the site with about 300 people on site to shoot what will be edited down to about 20 minutes of airtime.

As for luring Pinewood Studios here, Fayette County Development Authority CEO Matt Forshee said much of the credit goes to the successful production of the Drop Dead Diva television show inside a former aircraft hangar at Falcon Field Airport (also known as Atlanta Regional Airport).

Forshee deserves a big attaboy for improvisation after Pinewood officials soured on the concept of locating at a “noisy” airport. Forshee took the Pinewood representatives up in the air for a helicopter ride over the serene, pastoral acreage along Sandy Creek Road, and the studio officials were hooked.

Commission Chairman Steve Brown noted that Pinewood Studios is a solid company with an 80-year track record of hosting big-time movie blockbusters.

In terms of the first phase of the project, a conservative estimate shows a net revenue to the county of $2.8 million over a five-year period, Forshee said. In the subsequent nine years, the county’s take jumps to $12.4 million. Those figures only include property and sales tax revenue, but not income and wages of the hundreds who will be employed both directly and indirectly by the studio.

Len Gough of Promaker Development said his company has already received 73 inquiries from companies who want to come to Fayette County solely because of the Pinewood announcement.

While some companies will be located on Pinewood’s site, others will be coming to area shopping centers including Togwatee Village and the new Waterfall development in Fayetteville, Gough said.

While a movie studio was not on the county’s land use plans for the area, several commissioners noted the need to approve a project that will not only strive to maintain the rural character of Fayette County but also provide a number of jobs in a down economy.

Gough noted that the state of Georgia will pay to retrain workers for the TV and movie industry. The studio is expected to lure companies that specialize in camera equipment, lighting, costumes, props, catering and more. That fact alone means the movie studio development stands to lower the unemployment rate in the area, officials said.

Though some residents near the proposed studio opposed the project on fears that other similar developments will follow in the area, other residents supported the studio because it will attract young people to live in Fayette County.

The first phase of the project will affect 30 acres on the 288-acre site, with five soundstages, three additional buildings and two workshops.

Aida R. Martin
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Joined: 05/18/2012
Welcome Pine Studios

I do agree on great opportunities for Fayette County Residents. Our children would have more opportunities to great education and jobs locally.
As a homeowner I feel this is the key to pump up housing thanks to Pine Studios Project. There will always be some fears on big developments but we have to take the risk. Lets lower our unemployment rate in Fayette Coutnty. Welcome professional people in this area so well known for the quality of people.

Husband and Fat...
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Golden Goose?

I apologize for not being as upbeat as everyone else seems to be with this new project. While new revenue is good for the county, I still have reservations concerning the loss of beautiful land in the heart of the county especially when it was rezoned without hearing any concern from our commission who vowed not to do this.

I took a look at the latest Annual Report posted on the Fayette County Website. In this 2011 Annual Report, the cover on this states "Where Quality has always been the Lifestyle". In this report, the county lists the 10 Largest Taxpayers in 2011

Ten Largest Taxpayers in 2011
Owner Name
Nature of Business
2010 Assessed Valuation
1. NCR Corporation Industrial Manufacturing Plant $34,221,404
2. DDRTC Fayette Pavilion III&IV Shopping Center $17,259,208
3. Coweta-Fayette EMC Utility $16,808,918
4. DDRTC Fayette Pavilion I&II Shopping Center $16,206,880
5. Bellsouth Utility $12,856,188
6. DDRTC Fayette Pavilion I&II Shopping Center $12,581,324
7. Atlanta Gas Light Utility $11,925,199
8. Hoshizaki America Inc Industrial Manufacturing Plant $11,742,161
9. Georgia Power Company Utility $10,710,014
10. Dixie Aerospace, Inc. Industrial Manufacturing Plant $10,241,060

If the numbers are correct, after 5 years (2018), the studio is not projected to break into the top 10 tax producers. In the subsequent 9 years, if I understand correctly, revenue could jump to $12M, which will place them in the top 5. (That is if this is the yearly projection and not the total)

I understand there will be additional income from wages, new vendors and subcontractors that will be added to this equation and that too is good.

Long term, yes, this will result in a steady income, but this may not be the golden goose that everyone is predicting.

One can reasonable envision that once the studio is constructed, other businesses will want to located close by. Additional property owners will start requesting for zoning changes in order to gain top dollar for their land. And eventually, this could alter the landscape, once agriculture, then residential, now general business, and possibly next industrial. Was this the type of growth we wanted or are we settling for revenue? I am not convinced had this been proposed last year, that Mr. Brown, Mr. McCarty or the three new commissioners would have been as approving as they are now.

I want to rejoice and be happy about this project. However, it does not appear that we will see the steady revenue for quite some time. Perhaps soliciting manufacturing into the approved designated areas should be our first priority as these firms seem to be our greatest revenue source.

tikigod
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Good points.

Those are good observations and it is good to put things into perspective.

But there are other benefits that just tax revenue. This should help diversify the job market in this county. Look at the list you posted of the largest streams of revenue. They consist of Retail, Manufacturing, and Utilities. Lets be honest,a large portion of those working in the retail sector cannot afford to live in Fayette County. To a lesser extent the same goes for manufacturing and utilities. I don't know what the average pay is in those industries, but I was under the impression that a large percentage of those working at the Manufacturing plants in PTC came from out of county.

With the studio, there is an good chance that the jobs it is providing will support a family to live in our fine county. The more high income jobs in the county, the better.

The supporting businesses that are going to move in may be as big or bigger than the studio itself. Apparently the county has had inquiries from 73 businesses about relocating here as a support role for the studio.

If you read what has been said in regards to development in the county, it looks good. The studio want to retain the rural character of the area. They are setting the production facilities far back from the road.

Lets not forget the potential of SCAD too. A statewide resource for education in the film industry is nothing to sneeze at.

The golden goose aspect of this is that hopefully this will turn the tide of an aging population in Fayette County. The direction of the county without the studio was unsustainable. Housing values going down in Fayetteville along with a strong perception of increased crime. This studio has huge potential to be a positive force in the city and county.

Husband and Fat...
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Diversification is good

I agree, diversification is good for the county.

We can't take much credence in the inquiries as its just that. In real estate, you get a lot of people kicking the tires.

I don't know a lot about the entertainment industry. I do however have a relative working in the industry in Wilmington, NC. He and his wife both work at studios located there. (he in set design and she in accounting). Both have to work to make ends meet and both are also out of work for stretches at a time.

I am not convinced that a 65' tall airplane hanger can be really hidden that well. Its going to take a lot of lipstick to make this fit into the rural environment. Pretty sure within a short time period, other land owners will start wanting to sell and requesting additional zoning changes. They didn't want the government to take their land for the road because they weren't getting top dollar. However, now that the precedence in zoning change to General Business, we have opened the flood gates and greed and star gazing has set in.

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