Warily, PTC planners approve big Walgreens at Peachtree Parkway / Hwy. 54
The Walgreens that will be replacing the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Peachtree City “will be a big honking building” according to Planning Commissioner Patrick Staples.
But since the site plans meet all city ordinances and specifications, the commission had no leverage to force the building further away from the highway, or shrink it altogether as previously requested by a handful of residents.
The building will be about 50 feet closer to Ga. Highway 54 than the now-closed Ruby Tuesday, according to developer Scott Moore of United Retail. The Walgreens will be about three times the size of the Ruby Tuesday, but only about 1,000 square feet larger than the next door Rite-Aid pharmacy.
The commission did leverage several conditions on its approval of the architectural plans, including:
• Reducing the wall sign on the store enough to make it fit in better with architectural features on the columns of the tower. The sign will be facing Hwy. 54;
• Because three large trees in the landscape island along Rite-Aid are endangered, site developer United Retail will identify the type and size of trees that will be used to replace them as part of its future landscaping plan;
• A trellis feature on the site will be made of wood instead of aluminum;
• The addition of windows to break up solid brick on one portion of the elevation;
• The use of a shingled roof on the tower feature instead of a metal roof; and
• Looking at the possibility of reducing the car parking spaces by one to create space for three additional golf cart parking spaces. The site plan already has three cart spaces, and they are located close to the store, adjacent to the handicapped parking spaces.
“I think when this thing goes up, this facade goes up, and everybody drives by it, they’ll say ‘holy cow!’” said Commissioner David Conner. “... But I’m thinking it’s the best we can do.”
Resident Beth Pullias said she thought the site’s proximity to the road would “just be so overpowering.”
Resident Mary Giles said it would look “like an FAA strobe light” from Hwy. 54.
Because the site plan and architecture met the city’s ordinances and specifications, the commission had no way to force United Retail to move the building further back off the road.
Scott Moore of developer United Retail said he would take the sign restriction back to Walgreens for comment, but he indicated that would be a “very hard” matter to convince the corporation that the change was necessary.
Several commissioners noted the pressure was on for United Retail, and Walgreens, to execute the plan as presented.
“Do not disappoint us, please,” Commission Chairman Patrick Staples said in a stern voice after the commission’s unanimous approval of the site’s architecture.
Citizen opposition to the plans has been fierce due to the sensitive location of the store: at the intersection of Ga. Highway 54 and Peachtree Parkway, which in any other town would have intense commercial development on all four corners. But in Peachtree City, it has churches on two of the four corners.
In some ways, the Walgreens site will be an improvement, particularly in terms of landscaping compared to the current restaurant site. United Retail will be adding a landscaping area along the rear of the store to screen the trash compactor/dumpster area from view of those entering the site from the Peachtree Parkway entrance.
Also three parking spaces are being removed on the right of the Peachtree Parkway entrance to add a landscaping island.
Also, United Retail has committed to redoing all the understory landscaping along Ga. Highway 54, as it has fallen in disrepair. And more trees will be added along the rear where the site brushes up against adjacent residential property.
But the additional landscaping does not detract from the sheer massiveness of the new Walgreens, said resident Phyllis Aguayo.
“This is such an important corner,” she said. “Could we go beyond the minimum standards? Is it a problem if we feel we need more buffer and enhanced landscaping than is already in place? Do we have to accept the minimums is what I’m asking.”
United Retail’s Moore replied that the site will have more landscaping than required by the city.
“We are going above and beyond what the ordinance requires to try and do just what you’re asking,” Moore said.
Moore noted that the company would look to replace diseased and dead trees on the site with the largest trees possible, but in one case a 30-inch wide, 200-foot tall oak will have to come down and he can’t buy a tree that will replace it.
“When we’re dealing with landscaping, you have to have younger trees so the roots can establish and grow and flourish,” Moore said.