The City Council unanimously approved a request from Horizon Group Properties to move forward with its proposed 365,000-square-foot retail factory outlet and eight outparcels on Monday.
The proposal, located on 58.6 acres at the southwest quadrant of Interstate 575 and Woodstock Parkway, would be the first retail development in the Ridgewalk area.
The company was granted relief from the city’s code regarding maximum grade of sidewalks, parking requirements, streetscape adjustment requirements, architectural requirements, tree density requirements, stream buffer requirements and sign standards requirements.
Horizon sent out a news release late Monday night praising the council for its decision to allow the company to move ahead with the project.
“We are impressed with the thoroughness and professionalism the mayor, council members and staff from Woodstock have demonstrated during the review and approval of The Outlet Shoppes,” said Gary J. Skoien, chief executive officer of Horizon Group Properties.
Skoien said the company plans to begin construction in the first half of 2012 and, once open, the center could have 1,200 permanent and 1,600 seasonal jobs.
The proposal was recommended for approval by the Woodstock Planning Commission last month, but the Woodstock City Council tabled the request during its Nov. 14 meeting, because it wanted to review what road improvements could be made.
Council members also added extra stipulations on the project, such as only allowing fast food restaurants with drive-through windows to be built on only two parcels closest to the I-575, something Councilman Chris Casdia pushed for during the discussion.
Casdia initially didn’t want any fast-food restaurants with drive-thru windows on the outparcels, noting they would bring a lot of traffic to the area.
While he noted he understood Casdia’s concerns, Mayor Donnie Henriques said he had issues with regulating what private property owners can put on their property.
Skoien said he also understood Casdia’s concerns, but added he wouldn’t be able to sell the outparcels with those limitations.
The council amended a requirement recommended by the planning commission that would require the company to reserve space for the police department to have a substation.
After hearing concerns about the ability for the police department to staff the station, the council amended the stipulation to require the company to allow officers to use space inside the outlet mall if they need to interview witnesses or suspects for possible crime at the mall.
Some council members struggled with how they would incorporate their desire for the proposed outlet mall to reflect exactly what the applicants were proposing.
Councilman Randy Brewer, who represents the area, said he wanted to make sure the city would get exactly what it’s approving.
“We’ve seen this happen before,” he said of past applicants not living up to promises to make their development reflect what they proposed to the city.
City Manager Jeff Moon said the city could bring back specific plans for the council to approve in relation to the outlet mall.
Brewer said he wanted to see the outlet mall “soften the blow” the development would have on the Montclair subdivision that sits adjacent to the southwest part of the property.
Councilwoman Tessa Basford agreed, noting it was important for the city to remember the area will not only be a regional attraction for the city, but it’s also home for residents living in the immediate area.
“We have to value that,” she said.
The proposal for the outlet center also calls for shifting Woodstock Parkway to eastern edge of the property and realigning it with the current road accessing the Meridian at Ridgewalk neighborhood.
The current Woodstock Parkway at Ridgewalk Parkway intersection would be used as the main entrance into the outlet mall.
It would also place a roundabout at the current Woodstock Parkway and Rope Mill Road intersection, which would be slated as the development’s secondary entrance.
Horizon announced plans to build The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta on the property in June 2009.
Some of the high-end stores the outlet mall could bring to Woodstock include Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gap Outlet, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers and Kenneth Cole.
City leaders will also move forward with preparing the main arteries to handle the extra traffic.
The council also approved a framework agreement in which it could issue bonds to pay for the widening of Ridgewalk Parkway, which could cost about $2.7 million.
Phase one includes the widening of Ridgewalk between the new interchange at I-575 to the current Woodstock Parkway intersection, which would become the mall’s new entrance.
Phase two includes widening Ridgewalk from the new mall’s entrance to the relocated Woodstock Parkway intersection.
For both phases, the city would contribute $1 million and Horizon would contribute $625,000.
Phase three, which would widen Ridgewalk from the relocated Woodstock Parkway to Ridge Trail, has the city footing the bill for $1.1 million.
Horizon would not have to contribute any money towards the widening as it is outside the boundaries for its project, Moon said.
Moon said the city could use revenue in the next Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax designated for the Arnold Mill Road bypass and the Noonday stormwater project to repay the bonds.
The next SPLOST will begin in June of next year and will run through 2018.
In the relocation of Woodstock Parkway, which is slated to cost around $4.6 million, the city and the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners would both contribute $700,000 toward the cost.
Horizon would contribute $3.2 million towards the relocation.
That agreement is subject to the approval of the Board of Commissioners.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said the county has been in “informal discussions” about the proposal.
Cooper said he believes Woodstock representatives will make a formal presentation during the commissioners’ Dec. 20 work session.
Also Monday, the Woodstock City Council:
* Recognized its Christmas Jubilee Parade of Lights float winners. Woodstock Flowers and Gifts was awarded the Most Original float and Cross Fire Youth Ministry won the Best Holiday float;
* Approved the second reading of its radar permit renewal;
* Approved an emergency extension of its apartment moratorium in the Ridgewalk area for May 19, 2012;
* Approved amending the city’s organizational chart to place utility billing under the Public Works department;
The council met in closed session to discuss personnel, litigation and real estate.
After returning in to regular session, the council approved the creation of an administrative coordinator position for the Economic Development Department. The position’s salary is $34,567.27.