Judge overturns commission protection of Fox Hall from new development

By: Diane Cho
By: Diane Cho

Like it or not, a new shopping center may be coming to Augusta.

Monday, May 8, News 12 learned Judge William Fleming overturned a decision made by the Augusta Commission to keep the developer out.

It was a classic stand off: neighbors taking a stand against a developer who wanted to build a shopping center near their homes in Fox Hall.

In February, Augusta commissioners took sides with the neighbors.

Now a judge says what they did was unconstitutional.

They came, they saw, and they conquered.

The judge is siding with a group of Atlanta-based developers who want to change a residential area into a business district.

"The judge has instructed us to rezone the property within 60 days," said Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver.

Back in February, hundreds of neighbors in Fox Hall showed up in commission chambers to fight the proposal.

"We protected the neighborhood," said commissioner Marion Williams. "It's out of our hands. We did all we could do, the judge has ruled so we got to accept it."

The plan is to build a 300,000 square foot shopping center near the Fox Hall neighborhood.

"The corporation bought that property knowing it was residential, and now they're suing everyone to make it commercial. I think they should be forced to eat it," says Fox Hall resident Carter Loftis.

Loftis has lived in Fox Hall for three years. He says he agrees the city needs growth, but it doesn't have to stomp out nice neighborhoods.

"I'm sorry, commissioners, we didn't have all this traffic until you started all this development here. Maybe we should look at other areas," he said.

"Bottom line is, these areas in west and south Augusta are never going back to the quiet sleeping areas they once were," said commissioner Andy Cheek. "Growth is a part of life. Augusta needs economic stimulus."

While the commission can still appeal the court's decision, the mayor says he would not support it.

"That's only costing more money for the taxpayers," he said. "But I do feel for them."

"Back the community," said Loftis. "We back them...and I'd expect they back us."

George Patty, the executive director of planning and zoning, tells News 12 the decision will come back to commissioners in June for reconsideration.

If the county fails to do that, the courts could declare the property free of zoning forever.

There's another major shopping complex relatively close to the Fox Hall area, and it has everything from an Old Navy to Circuit City.

The Augusta Exchange center is off Robert C. Daniel Parkway near Walton Way Extension.

When the land development debate first started, homeowners mentioned the close proximity of other shopping centers as a reason for not wanting this new complex.

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