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Shoppes of Madison draws controversy among some neighborhoods

Published 12:06am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Madison couple gave locals the opportunity to voice concerns and opinions on the development of The Shoppes of Madison, a 266,000-square foot shopping center to be built south of U.S. 72, near the site of the new Madison Hospital off Balch Road.

Neil and Whitney Sutherland held their community meeting Tuesday, Feb. 8 at Fellowship Hall of Grace Presbyterian Church.

“We support the Shoppes of Madison coming in, we are just asking for the tree-line to preserve the natural beauty and environment,” said Whitney Sutherland.

Sutherland also said she is concern with a possible “decline in property value and quality of life” for residents in her neighborhood of Eastfield.

The Sutherlands, who have lived in Madison for almost seven years, said while they do believe the new shopping center would benefit Madison, it falls “extremely short” in providing adequate buffer space for the people who live in the surrounding Homestead and Stallion Run subdivisions.

Sutherland said one of her main concerns is the trees located behind her house that will be cut down and. She said she counted 285 trees 30 feet in height or greater in the tree removal areas, with 33 trees approaching or exceeding 3 feet in diameter at the base.

Craig Cole is senior vice president of development for GBT Realty Corporation, the Brentwood, Tenn. based retail development firm in charge of constructing the site.

Cole said although everything the firm is doing is legal and sticks to the codes and regulation the city has set forth, they are willing to work with the community to try and accommodate their needs.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to minimize impact,” Cole said. “We develop first-class shopping centers everywhere we go. We take a lot of pride in it. We want to make sure the tenants stay there, and make sure the customers do.”

He gave some possible changes the firm would make to accommodate some citizen concerns.

The tree line Sutherland was trying so desperately to save will still be knocked down, but now will be replaced with trees on a berm with 8-foot evergreens on top.

“However, it looks like in three years, I won’t see the roof of target,” she said.

The lights from the shopping center will be adjusted to as to not shine on the surrounding homes.

But, not everyone left the meeting happy.

Lisa Pietz, a resident in Eastfield said she is worried about the decrease in property value.

“They didn’t address certain concerns,” Pietz said. “I’ve done lots of research on it and houses within 300 feet of retail centers are going to suffer a decrease in property values. What is the city going to do for us? No one has addressed that. What are they going to do about my tax rate, what are they going to do about the fact that we’re never going to be able to sale this house probably.”

She said her house would be placed directly behind the anchor store.

“They’re going to put the trees and they’re going to put the fence up, but it doesn’t change the facts,” she said, “it doesn’t change the empirical date that people have done a lot of research on. And no one is addressing it.”

A Homestead resident, Lorie Williams, said she is against The Shoppes of Madison coming because she fears the congestion and crowds it may bring.

“I don’t like to have my home surrounded on all sides by a hospital, by shops, I just don’t want that,” Williams said. “I appreciate they are doing everything they can to minimize the effects it will have on our neighborhoods and to minimize lowering our property value, so I really appreciate that. But, there’s nothing I can do to stop it, so I just have to live with it so I appreciate what they are doing.”

Mayor Paul Finley also attended the meeting.

“The buffer was used a lot tonight, but the buffer a lot of time is between progress and preservation, and I think in this case that’s what we’re tying to do,” Finley said. “We have a mature neighborhood who wants to make sure that the impact on them is minimal and their voices were heard by council, mayor, planning.”

Finley said they city has worked with GBT to ask what else can they could do, because legally, they didn’t have to do anything.

“But that’s aligning yourself with a partner, listening to your community and trying to do everything you can do minimize the impact,” Finley said. “What we saw tonight was the willingness to do exactly that. I don’t think we made everybody happy, but I know they feel like they were heard.”

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