Pinewood Studios site goes to planning commission

The future Pinewood Studios will occupy this site off Veterans Parkway in central Fayette County, provided property owners get rezoning approval. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The process that would establish British-based Pinewood Studios Group in Fayette County is about to begin. A rezoning request for the 288-acre property on Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway will be heard Thursday night (March 7) by the Fayette County Planning Commission.

The 288.50-acre tract is situated immediately to the west of Veterans Parkway and Sandy Creek Road. The property is currently zoned A-R (Agricultural-Residential) and R-70 (Rural-Residential with lots of two to three acres). The tract is surrounded by properties zoned R-70.

Owners of the 288.50-acre property that would house Project Stargate are requesting a change in county zoning to G-B (General Business) to accommodate the establishment of a film and television studio complex to be operated by Pinewood Studios.

The rezoning request does not conform to the county’s Future Land Use Plan, though it does align with several components of the Fayette County Comprehensive Plan’s economic development element, according to county planning staff.

One of the plan’s objectives supports the development of business opportunities to diversify and strengthen the tax base, create and maintain jobs and preserve the quality of life in Fayette County. Another objective provides for the development and expansion of a diversified economic base to produce a wide range of employment opportunities.

The policies in the comprehensive plan note the need to “target corporations that require a highly educated workforce matching the county’s educational demographics” and the need to “recruit clean industry which has minimal impacts on existing public facilities and the environment.”

The proposed rezoning was submitted by project representative Jim Pace, one of the principals in Group VI, a Fayette-based construction, real estate, development and property management company. Commissioners at the meeting will hear details of the Project Stargate architectural codes and regulations.

The proposed development would carry setbacks of 100 feet from the right-of-way along the adjacent Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway. The two entrances to the property will include security buildings that will be situated beyond the right-of-way and will provide controlled access to the business support areas and studio areas.

Fencing at the roadways will be of an equestrian-type and will include stone or brick columns at key accent areas. Security fencing will be provided around the secured studio areas which will be visually screened from the nearby roadways.

Inside the property, Project Stargate is proposing two signs per building or one wall sign and one monument sign, tenant space signs and individual tenant and door signs along with directional signage inside the property. External signs within the view of Veterans Parkway and Sandy Creek Road will not be translucent or illuminated from behind and all exterior signs will be illuminated from a single source.

The proposal includes the installation of a multi-use path inside the 100-foot buffer area adjacent to Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway. An illustration provided by Project Stargate shows the installation of a planted berm adjacent to the roadways, with the multi-use path immediately to the west. The path will be adjacent to a larger planted berm that will be adjacent to the buildings closest to the roadways. Parking areas for 383 vehicles will also be visually screened from the roadways.

The proposal also shows the support buildings nearest the roadways with a maximum height of 35 feet with the studio production and other building further into the property with a maximum height of 65 feet. The larger buildings will be positioned at a lower elevation on the property and, due to the presence of the planted berms, will be substantially screened from view from the roadways.

As currently envisioned, the concept for the initial portions of Phase 1 construction shows several studio/stage buildings totaling 100,000 square feet, two studio workshop buildings totaling 67,500 square feet and several studio service provider buildings positioned behind the 100-foot buffer and berm that sits adjacent to the roadway. The entirety of Phase 1 is expected to be completed at a later date.

County planning staff recommends approval of the rezoning request with eight conditions. Those include:

• a quit claim deed for 50 feet of right-of-way from the centerline of the roadway;

• a minimum of 50 feet of buffer and 75 feet of setback be maintained on Sandy Creek and its tributaries;

• the property be limited to G-B-zoned uses that are in context with a media production and educational campus;

• the installation of a 100-foot landscape/buffer along Sandy Creek Road and Veterans Parkway;

• the installation of a 10-foot multi-use path built by the owner with the entire length of the Sandy Creek Road/Veterans Parkway buffer area;

• the establishment of a 200-foot Studio Service Providers Character area adjacent to the 100-foot buffer;

• the remainder of the property comply with architectural codes and development guidelines;

• the establishment of a 30-foot landscape on the west side of the property that is adjacent to the power line where existing vegetation does not provide ample screening.

The March 7 public hearing at the county complex in Fayetteville will begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by another public hearing conducted by the Fayette County Commission on March 28.

Beyond what is occurring with the rezoning request in unincorporated Fayette County, there is also an expectation that the property owners of the Project Stargate tract along with the Horton property to the south on both sides of Phase 1 of Veterans Parkway and the Williams property that borders Ga. Highway 54 and Sandy Creek Road east of Piedmont Fayette Hospital could be seeking annexation into Fayetteville.