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EARLIER: Dueling outlet mall plans: 2nd outlet mall proposal pops up for Simpsonville

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New location sits just across Buck Creek Road from initial site

By Todd Martin

The idea of an outlet mall just south of I-64 on Buck Creek Road in Simpsonville has raised a lot of questions and concerns. Now those questions could double.

Trio Property Managing Partner Stuart Flowers said his group is under contract to sell about 83 acres south of I-64 and east of Buck Creek Road to Water Street Development, a company based in Columbus, Ohio, that has plans to build an outlet mall of between 340,000 and 500,000 square feet.

“We wanted to stay quiet until things were concrete, but our property is under contract with the developers,” Flowers said.

Water Street Development Project Manager Robbie Colombo did not return messages left by The Sentinel-News, but the company’s Web site describes numerous retail developments in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Flowers said he understands the questions residents in that vicinity have about an outlet mall coming into what is  a community of residences and small farms, and he said he believes the residents should decide which location they prefer.

Trio Property’s land is almost directly across Buck Creek Road (KY 1848) from property owned by John Schnatter, where Horizon Group Properties is in the process of applying for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to build a 355,000-square-foot outlet mall on a 60-acre parcel.

“I understand people having reservations about development,” he said. “But what everybody had to keep in mind is that it’s interchange property. This is a great opportunity for the Simpsonville, Shelby County and the state.”

Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton said having two companies looking at locating large job bases in the city is exciting.

“It’s exciting that people are looking at us,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen. I’ve been doing this a long time, and sometimes you work up to a point and it just stops, and other times it moves forward. No one has made a firm commitment yet that they’re coming.”

Not all of Trio’s property is zoned Interchange, however. The majority of the roughly 83-acre parcel is zoned Agricultural, with only about 25 acres zoned Interchange.

Triple S Planning and Zoning Executive Director Ryan Libke said he has spoken with Flowers about the property and told him that a zone change would be needed for a large part of the planned development.

“Only about a thousand feet off of Buck Creek Road is zoned Interchange,” he said. “The rest of the property is Agriculture and on the Proposed Future Land Use Map, it is set to remain AG and Conservation.”

But that doesn’t mean the property can’t be changed or that is unlikely to be changed. Libke said the burden of proving that the current zoning is not adequate or that the future land use isn’t appropriate would be on the applicant.

“Since sewer is available from the rest stop [to the east] and has the capacity needed for that development, that could be considered a major change,” he said.

To receive a zone change that goes against the Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map, applicants can point to major changes of economic, physical or social nature. The addition of the sewers at the rest stop could be considered a major change for the property.

Flowers said the property was purchased in 1968 by his father, J.T. Flowers, and a group with the purpose of future development.

Trio’s property was annexed into the city in January, and, at that time Flowers said it was in part done because of the sewers. As part of the city, the property receives a 20 percent discount for tapping onto Simpsonville’s sewer system.

Flowers said he believes this location is a better spot for an outlet mall — although he declined to say which outlet company Water Street is working with — than the location just west of his property.

“What we want the citizens to realize is that there’s a very, very good chance that an outlet mall is going in that area,” he said. “What they need to decide is which site is better?”

Flowers said the location of his 83 acres provides a more “self-contained” area with the rest stop to the east, Buck Creek Road to the west, I-64 to the north and a “fairly dense row of trees to the south that provide a natural buffer to the residential area.”

He also noted that the property has more frontage on I-64, which guarantees more visibility, and the potential to increase the size of the development with another 10 acres that is connected to the property near the I-64 on-ramp.

“While I know that bigger isn’t always better,” he said, “with this kind of development it is. The larger it is, the more sustainable it is, and that also means more jobs and more revenue.”

Flowers said the location also would have between six and 10 out lots, which would provide areas for restaurants, hotels and other retail outlets not associated with the outlet.

“We already have commitments for several of the out lots,” Flowers said.

Another advantage that Flowers claims is the road plan if he outlet goes on the east side of Buck Creek Road, which is in the process of being expanded to four lanes from just south of I-64 to U.S. 60.

“We’ve been working with the state highway department, and so has Horizon,” he said. “Those residents wouldn’t have to sit in outlet mall traffic when the road is redone. Those going straight or right [west] wouldn’t have to sit in the traffic because it would all be turning left into the outlet center. If it’s built on the west side of Buck Creek Road, more residents will have to share the light with that traffic.

“With our location being more self-contained, it would help the traffic flow.”

Flowers said a double-lane right turn would be added for those coming out of the outlet center and a double-lane left turn for those going in.

However, representatives for the Department of Highways District 5 did not return a message requesting the road plans for the widening of Buck Creek Road.

Flowers said his location is “ready to go” but added that developers are working on finalizing the site work before heading to Triple S to request a zone change.

“We believe our site is better, but we want the citizens to see both sides,” he said.