Proposed office development surrounded by Pinewood Forrest draws debate

Jimmy Pace with Pace Real Estate and Development lays out his case for his development near Pinewood Forrest to receive PCD zoning at Tuesday night’s meeting. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

Tucked into a small pocket in the middle of Pinewood country, a local developer has his sights set on building a small office building called The Overlook. At Tuesday night’s City of Fayetteville Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Jimmy Pace with Pace Real Estate and Development asked that the .944 acre property be rezoned to Planned Community District (PCD) in keeping with the zoning of the surrounding property.

“This project is literally right in the middle of an existing PCD community. We’re not creating a new community, we’re just blending the existing community together,” said Pace.

The property is currently zoned for single-family residential, but had been PCD at one point previously. Pace plans to build a 13,664 square foot, three-story office building with a full width balcony on the land. Currently two mobile homes sit on the land surrounded by the ongoing development of Pinewood Forrest.

“From my perspective, it is a win-win-win solution for this city,” said Pace, noting that Pinewood Forrest benefits from the removal of the mobile homes, and the currently property owner sells at a price he is happy with. “It’s a win for me because I get to build an office building that I’m genuinely excited about.”

Among other issues, the key point of contention is the size of the property in question. At .944 acres, it falls well below the required minimum of five acres for a PCD.

“The reason that applicants choose the PCD zoning is because it allows a mix of uses and allows quite a lot of flexibility, but PCD stands for Planned Community District, community, not a single parcel,” said Director of Community Development Jahnee Prince. “Our zoning ordinance comes right out and says tracts of five acres or larger are required. It sets forth a framework for traditional neighborhood development.”

Representing Pinewood Atlanta Studios and Pinewood Forrest, Rick Halbert laid out their opposition to the development.
“I represent 870 acres here tonight,” said Halbert. “We are definitely in opposition.”

He noted out how the property has long been a sore spot. As they have acquired those 870 acres by buying 16 parcels from six families, the property in question was the holdout.

“We have tried earnestly to deal with this property, and we have not had success in doing so,” he said. “We would like to have something nice built there. This is not the way to do it.”

Halbert pointed to the small acreage, lack of multiple uses, environmental issues, and an unfairly lenient process in comparison to what they had to go through in their own zoning process, adding that they went through 24 drawings with three architects to get to the point of approval, among the reasons they are in opposition.

The precedent for zoning along the corridor could be dangerous, said Rich Hoffman, who served on the comprehensive land use committee for Fayetteville.

“I’m opposed to this for one reason and one reason only, it’s nine-tenths of an acre,” said Hoffman, noting that a previous request for PCD zoning at 4.6 acres was already turned down. “What you do today you will have to live with tomorrow.”

Pace responded that he thought it would do good for the area.

“I’m humbled that someone would go through that much trouble to oppose this property,” he said. “At the end of the day, this property is separate from (Pinewood). It does blend with their usage, and it will bring conformity out there.”

Pace, who along with his father were key figures in establishing Pinewood Atlanta Studios as part of Group VI, added that he had spoken with Pinewood Forrest and that they thought it would be an acceptable use for the land.

Halbert refuted the notion that they supported the development.

“That is not correct,” he said. “In the most political way I can put it, Pinewood Forrest and the ownership and management of that supports Jimmy Pace as a person. He’s been a part of this project. He’s been a part of our family. He’s been a part of our friendship. We are not in support of this project.”

Prince again shared her wish to eliminate the PCD zoning with the coming rewriting of the entire zoning ordinance.

“The PCD zoning district was written 17 years ago to accommodate traditional neighborhood development back when nobody knew how to write code for it. Now lots of people know how to write code for it. The PCD district is outdated and has proven very problematic and time consuming for staff,” she said. “My preference is to see nothing zoned PCD ever again.”

Prince recommended instead that it be rezoned to OI (office industrial).

“It best fits what the applicant intends to do with this site,” she said. “PCD zoning is not appropriate at this location.”

Unable to overlook the small size of the property in question, the P&Z Commission voted 3-1 to recommend rezoning to OI instead of PCD.

The rezoning request, with the recommendation attached, will soon go before the Fayetteville City Council for a binding vote. City council could choose to stick with OI, revert to PCD zoning, or reject the request altogether.

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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