EARLIER: Outlet mall questions get no answers

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Commission follows process; Horizon promises more traffic info

By Steve Doyle and Todd Martin

Six people – including two speakers – who went to the Simpsonville City Commission’s meeting on Tuesday to get answers departed with little more information than they had when they arrived.

Bill Brammell, who is on retainer for the city to sit in for vacationing City Attorney Hite Hays, basically ended the discussion before Barbara Shadley could ask her first question by explaining the ground rules for the session.

“The comments have to do with the developing of an outlet mall and with a zone change application that will come before the Triple S Planning Commission,” Brammell said. “Because the commission will be called in to act in a quasi-judicial role on that item, it is inappropriate for them to comment on that application.

“Its decision must be based entirely on the record from Triple S provided to them. The city could gather more input after that, if it chooses. But in order to maintain objectivity, there will be no comment from the mayor or city commission.”

Brammell’s ground rules underscored the process that would follow when Horizon Group presents its plans to Triple S on July 17.

Horizon has announced its will build a 365,000-square-foot outlet mall center – called Outlet Shoppes of Louisville – on a 50-acre site just south of Interstate 64 in Simpsonville, at the intersection of Veechdale and Buck Creek roads.

Horizon also is awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would allow developers to fill a 6.5-acre pond that sits on the site. The pond was built in the 1960s with the construction of I-64.

After Triple S accepts public comment and reviews the plans, its members would render a recommendation on the zone changes imbedded in that plan and return a “finding of fact” to the Simpsonville City Commission for its acceptance, rejection or modification. That recommendation to the city commission could come as soon as August.

At that time, the city commission could hold its own public hearing and answer questions, but, until Triple S meets, all is quiet on the western front of this issue.

Neither Shadley nor Jamie Jarboe, who also addressed the commission, live in the city limits, but both have been vocal in expressing their concerns about the plan for the mall and its impact on the environment, traffic and other elements of that part of the county.

Shadley resides on Braxton Estates, on Veechdale Road, and Jarboe, wife of Shelby County School Board member Doug Butler, lives on Buck Creek Road, just south of where the mall’s entrance would intersect with a road already under expansion around I-64.

A traffic study completed by Horizon was a repeated theme of their 30 minutes or so of comments and questions. Both Shadley and Jarboe question the validity of that study, when it was completed and what factors it might have considered, including the already troublesome traffic flow around the Pilot Truck Stop and the Shelby County Flea Market.

“I don’t live in Simpsonville, but I have to travel through that intersection,” Jarboe said. “I think none of you live on the south side [of I-64], so you don’t know how traffic is. It’s not safe. You don’t have an understanding of what bringing twenty or thirty times more traffic could mean.

“The traffic study was done on June 11 – a Monday – and there was no flea market traffic. When you add flea market traffic on flea market days, four lanes of traffic is going to be dangerous.”

Better job of explaining

In an phone interview Thursday morning, Tom Rumptz, Horizon senior vice president in charge of construction, said he didn’t feel the company explained the road improvements and traffic flow plans for the new center well enough at the public meeting last month.

“I didn’t think we explained that as well as we could have,” he said. “We plan on doing a much better job of that at the zoning hearing with Triple S. I think we’ll be able to explain the traffic issues much better by then.”

Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden said the public will get its chance to speak to the commission.

“Zoning will have its own, independent traffic study,” he said. “We’re following the same process we have for my nineteen years as mayor. I encourage both sides to attend their [Triple S’s] meeting and speak up.

“Hopefully, we will get it [the plan] back in September. Then we’ll have ninety days to have a hearing, go by the evidence of zoning or get other evidence. We will have public discussion, but it may not be a full-blown hearing.

“We’ve done that with every development. We will let people come and speak.”

Financial viability

Several people also have questioned the financial viability of Horizon Group – Shadley and Jarboe mentioned that to the commission – but Rumptz said that should not be a concern.

“We had the finances and equity for an eighty-million-dollar project in Oklahoma City that opened last year, and to secure financing for an eight-to-eight-five million-dollar project under way just outside Atlanta, so I think we’re fine,” he said. “Financial statements for real estate companies can be difficult to read. The fact that we’ve been able to deliver projects at a time when most retail and real estate companies are contracting or laying people off is a strong indication of where we are.”

In fact, the company just announced an expansion of its newest center in Oklahoma City, with an additional 28,000 square feet being added on to the 10-month-old development. The announcement also included an additional 31,700 square feet that company officials hope to develop at a later date.

CBL and Associates has joined as co-developers with Horizon in Oklahoma City and Atlanta  and purchased a half partnership in the company’s El Paso development.

Rumptz said he cannot say if the same will be done in Simpsonville. He did say that Horizon maintained the management and marketing of the developments in partnership with CBL.

“I think that a company wants to buy into these developments shows how strong the business is,” he said.

However, many residents in the area of the proposed Simpsonville development remain leery of the project and its impact on the area, which is largely residential and farm land.

And many residents who will be directly affected by the development do not live within the Simpsonville city limits, but are being forced to ask to officials who do not represent them for help.

““We don’t live in the city, so we have no recourse but to hope you understand,” Jarboe told the commission.