Neither side got quite what they were looking for, but The Overlook will soon be putting down roots in the middle of Pinewood Forrest. At Thursday night’s Fayetteville City Council meeting, a rezoning request was approved for the proposed three-story, 13,664 square foot office building.
The Overlook is the vision of Jimmy Pace and Pace Real Estate and Development. It is set to be built on a .944-acre property surrounded by Pinewood Forrest and across the street from Pinewood Atlanta Studios. Currently, two mobile homes sit on the property.
“This one piece of property we have poured into it ideas, concepts, and thoughts of how to do this best,” said Pace. “Our goal is to develop a project that the City of Fayetteville, that Pinewood Forrest, that all of our surrounding neighbors can be proud of. This is not a project that we are wanting to do at a mediocre level. We want to do this project with excellence.”
Pace assured that he wants to build something that won’t adversely affect the Pinewood properties.
“I want to be clear that I’m a huge fan of Pinewood Forrest, that I want their project to be successful, that I would like to be a good neighbor,” he said. “I have tried, through the course of this project, to be respectful and understanding of their positions.”
While the request was for PCD (Planned Community District) zoning, both the Planning and Zoning Commission and city staff instead recommended OI (Office and Institutional) zoning.
“It does not meet the requirements for a PCD zoning for lots of different reasons,” said Director of Community Development Jahnee Prince, noting that PCD is intended for a mixed-use community, not single buildings. “The minimum lot size is five acres (for PCD zoning), and that’s because it’s real hard to build a community on less than five acres.”
The zoning recommendation was a simple one for staff.
“It’s an office building, so office zoning seems appropriate.”
Pace countered with his reasoning for PCD zoning. Chief among his points were that the .944-acre plot is surrounded by 500-plus acres of PCD zoning. It also had previously been zoned PCD.
“I don’t object to OI, I just think PCD is better,” he said, noting that Council does have the authority to approve single-use or smaller parcels if it benefits the City.
Former Mayor Greg Clifton, who was in office when the property was zoned PCD, supported reverting the rezoning back to PCD, calling it currently an eyesore and a postage stamp-sized piece of land surrounded by a sea of PCD property. Plus, he cautioned not to plan too far ahead on what Pinewood would do.
“We all know that Pinewood plans are not set in stone,” he said. “They change frequently.”
Julie Sellers, a zoning attorney representing Pinewood Forrest, spoke in opposition.
“I’m usually on the side of Mr. Pace. I’m usually representing developers. I’m usually advocating for new and exciting development,” said Sellers. “I can count on one hand the times that I’ve actually taken a case to oppose something.”
Sellers laid out their case to deny the rezoning request altogether. With the amount of time and money invested in creating a vision for Veterans Parkway, she warned against rushing a piece that wouldn’t work well.
“I don’t want us to be in a position where there’s a decision that’s made to rezone a parcel that doesn’t fit with that vision,” she said. “Is this right redevelopment for this property? I do not believe it is.”
Sellers likened putting this project under PCD zoning to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
“I don’t fault them for wanting to take advantage of where they’re situated,” she said. “Doing that in a respectful way to the vision and preserving Veterans Parkway is achievable, it’s just not shown on this plan.”
Todd Strickland, a partner with architectural and planning company Historical Concepts which has heavily studied the corridor, complimented the potential of The Overlook, but asked that work wait until the sides can come together.
“I would encourage you to hold tight on this. Make the groups sit together and come up with a cohesive vision that you’re proud of,” he said to the council. “It’s a heck of a lot easier to get it right now than to come back and try to fix it later.”
Pace noted that he had met with representatives from Pinewood five times in hopes of better understanding their concerns, but that they struggled to find common ground.
“It becomes incredibly difficult to reach a compromise when all they want is to deny it. They don’t want to see a nice office building. They don’t want to see anything other than those very profitable mobile homes,” he said. “I am passionate about this project. I think that it would be best for the City, and I would like you to seriously consider approval of the PCD zoning.”
In the end, Council voted 4-1, with Kathaleen Brewer in opposition, to rezone to Office and Institutional.
The next step will be up to Pace. He can choose to appeal the rezoning decision or, if he accepts the OI zoning, he would head before the Planning and Zoning Commission with development plans for approval.