WOODSTOCK – Woodstock planners have given the first thumbs-up to the future site plans for Morgan’s Ace Hardware, which will be moving out of the downtown district to make room for a city center development.

The Woodstock Planning Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend approval of the annexation and rezoning of 24.5 acres along Main Street, north of Ridgewalk Parkway and south of Brook Boulevard. The property is being requested for rezoning from residential to neighborhood commercial and civic district, with Morgan’s Ace Hardware and “future neighborhood commercial” to occupy the front 8.35 acres along Main Street and a passive park to fill the rear 16 acres.

According to city staff, the park would undergo a similar public input process as the recently established Little River Park along Trickum Road. That process would likely take a year or more. The development of the nearly 25 acres would also include a traffic light and road connection from Main Street to the park through the Morgan’s lot.

Conditions for the annexation and rezoning include restrictions on building materials and opportunities for staff to review final plans and make edits where appropriate before construction.

During discussion, Commissioner Robert Tidwell expressed concerns about traffic on Main Street, especially relating to the proposed access to the project and how it might affect the access and safety of residents in the adjacent Woodstock Knoll subdivision. City staff said they could not answer yet what effect could come as a result of the project but did say that any concerns would likely be addressed during the required analysis for installation of a traffic light.

Five residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the case, citing concerns with noise, project appearance, security fencing and buffering to the adjacent Woodstock Knoll subdivision.

Norman Colby, a homeowner directly adjacent the property proposed for the Morgan’s relocation, began his address of the commission saying that if a store had to pop up next to his home, this is the right one. Colby continued that the only concern he would have is ensuring that the natural, beautiful view behind his home is not destroyed.

“I’m excited for the new development. I just want to make sure that the extra care is taken… I’d hate to walk outside and see something that’s not as nice as it could be,” he said.

Colby also asked for extra consideration of noise screening against the Woodstock Knoll subdivision and questioned whether a sidewalk could be factored into the development plans.

Another of the subdivisions residents, Bhrett Kistler, said he spoke on behalf of Woodstock Knoll and echoed Colby with his own concerns. Kistler said the two main concerns of the neighborhood are how the development will look and the noise that will be generated. He asked that operating hours of the commercial uses on the property be reduced from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. and that further building height and lighting restrictions be specified.

Representatives of Morgan’s also spoke during discussion of the case, saying that occasional testing of equipment and mowing of grass would be needed and would cause some noise but would not likely be any different than what is already heard around the residential areas.

The planning commission voted unanimously to forward the case to the Woodstock City Council with recommendation for approval. The case is expected to be heard by the council on Jan. 28.

The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the Chambers at City Center in downtown Woodstock, 8534 Main St. Agendas, minutes and videos of past meetings can be viewed at woodstockga.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.

Thomas is a government, business, crime and features reporter for the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

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