Tuesday May 31st, 2016 4:25PM

Gainesville planning board says 'no' to Lanier Plaza redevelopment

By B.J. Williams News Director
GAINESVILLE - The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board Tuesday evening turned down a plan from Polestar Development, LLC to redevelop Lanier Plaza Shopping Center on Thompson Bridge Road.

The vote was 4-2 in opposition to a rezoning request to develop the property just north of Enota Avenue for a 42,000 square foot grocery store and fuel service station. The city planning staff recommendation had been for approval, with conditions.

Planners had a full house for their meeting, the majority at the Gainesville Justice Center ready to speak out against the plan. Most opponents of the proposal said they feared increased traffic along Thompson Bridge Road, and others cited concerns that a big box store was planned for the site.

Area resident Jim Froelich asked developer representative Matt Phillips for specific information about the store.

"One thing I'm not totally clear on...what is the name of the store? I have not had a clear indication what the name of the store will be," said Froelich.

Phillips declined to reveal the name of his client, saying the development depended on a rezoning change, and if that wasn't going to happen, then his client wanted the ability to explore other options for development.

Speculation among the opposition was that a Walmart store was planned for the 1.741-acre site. A Facebook page titled "Keep Walmart Off Thompson Bridge Road" had been activated to rally opposition prior to the planning board meeting.

Attorney Abb Hayes, who spoke as a representative for El Sombrero Restaurant, noted that his client had a lease through the end of the year at Lanier Plaza, and he said his client had no intention of moving.

A total of nine people voiced opposition to Polestar's application during the 20-minutes allotted.

Planning board member John Snyder made a motion to approve the proposal, noting that the current shopping center was 30 years old and had begun to show signs of deterioration. Board member Doyle Johnson seconded the motion. Board members Dexter Stanley, Jane Fleming and Connie Rucker, along with Chairman Dean Dadisman, voted against the motion to approve. Board member George Hokayem recused himself from the proceedings.

The proposal now goes to the Gainesville City Council for a first reading. That meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 5:30 p.m.

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