It was déjà vu at the Dearing Town Council meeting Monday night when a rezoning request that was approved in May was approved for a second and final time with a list of conditions.

“We’re in for some growing pains,” one town resident commented.

“This is the development we need to get the (property tax bill) burden off our residents,” Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said. Dearing residents do not currently pay town property taxes, and sales tax revenue from additional retail would help shore up Dearing’s tax base, according to the mayor.

The rezoning allows a Family Dollar store to be built on property rezoned from residential to commercial at 124 Neal’s Mill Road and facing Augusta Highway. Kelley said the second hearing was held because one of the stipulations the town placed on the developer could not be met, namely the addition of a deceleration lane. The Georgia Department of Transportation denied the decel lane based on the number of anticipated store visits. The estimated number does not warrant a deceleration lane per GDOT regulations, according to Kelley.

A 2-1 vote with Council Members Ray Silverstein and Allen Axon voting for the rezoning and Council Member Joshua Rodgers opposed, came after a lengthy discussion.

Council Member Michael McTier was absent. It appeared for several awkward minutes that the rezoning request might be denied effectively killing off the developer’s project.

The developer, Will Stronach with Stronach Properties of Raleigh, N.C., attended the hearing to answer residents’ and council members’ concerns. “We’ve been bending over backward on this,” Stronach said. “We’ve been making improvements in every way.”

Council members placed the following conditions on the Family Dollar rezoning request: adhere to GDOT recommendations and widen turning radiuses; add signage to deter motorists from turning right in front of the old school building (where RESA is now housed) when leaving the Family Dollar parking lot; restrict truck deliveries to the store during business hours only; no deliveries can be made from the Neal Mill Road driveway; the store’s façade will have brick and (synthetic) stucco; ensure the Neal Mill Road driveway does not line up directly with a neighbor’s driveway located across from the store; limit the size of the Neal Mill Road driveway and include obstructive barriers to prevent heavy vehicles from “cutting corners.”

These conditions on the Family Dollar project must be met within a 12-month time period, Kelley said.

Council members also inquired about a ditch that would serve as a retention pond. Stronach stated it is not a retention pond “per se,” rather it is a depression that would allow for drainage after a rain event.  

One of the previous stipulations on the project was met last month when the McDuffie County Board of Education voted to execute a Warranty Deed of Gift to Dearing, the mayor said.

The deed, approved by the school board at a meeting on Sept. 17, conveyed a .37-acre parcel to Dearing. This allows the Family Dollar store to gain necessary access to the drive off of School Circle thereby making it easier for delivery trucks to approach the rear of the building.

In other Town of Dearing business, Boy Scout Troop 310 asked the council’s permission to install a flag retirement box at Town Hall to collect residents’ worn flags. The troop will collect the flags that can no longer be flown and appropriately retire them in a traditional ceremony. The scouts also want to hold a Trunk or Treat event for Halloween, which falls on a Saturday this year. The location for the Trunk or Treat will be announced at a later date. The event will also serve to recruit boys who want to join the local Harlem/Dearing Boy Scouts of America troop. Troop activities can be found on Facebook.

The Dearing Town Council will next meet at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Dearing Community Center. The council will not meet Oct. 12 due to the federal Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples’ Day holiday.

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