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Outlet mall could be making its way to Simpsonville

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by Todd Martin | Landmark News Service

Developers of a proposed outlet mall south of Interstate 64 in Simpsonville have requested permits with the Army Corps of Engineers to get their project moving.
For more than a year now, Horizon Group Properties, a development company with offices in Chicago and Muskegon, Mich., has been inquiring about and planning for a 60-acre parcel just west the BP station at Exit 28 off of I-64 and south of Buck Creek Road.
The proposal, called the Shoppes at Louisville/Lexington, that has been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers shows nine buildings totaling 355,000 square-feet in retail outlets, with parking surrounding the structures.
Horizon Group runs several retail centers, including ones in Burlington, Wash., Oklahoma City and Fremont, Ind., has expansions planned in El Paso, Texas and Gettysburg, Penn., has development plans here and Atlanta and Laredo, Texas. The Atlanta site, actually in Woodstock, Ga., was approved by the Woodstock City Council on Dec. 31.
The Fremont, Ind., location, which is the closest one to Shelby County, features stores like Aeropostale, Coach, Gap, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, according to their Web site.
The Oklahoma City center, which just opened in August last year, features several of the same stores along with upscale outlets like Brooks Brothers and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th.
The company is also the developer of a master planned community in suburban Chicago.
Horizon Group, however, does not own the Simpsonville property. The Shelby County PVA's office still lists the land's owner as AKDB, LLC, a corporation led by John Schnatter, founder, chairman and CEO of Papa John's Pizza.
Schnatter bought roughly 600 acres in that area more than a decade ago with the idea of building a golf course.
Although the course never came about, AKDB has maintained ownership of much of the property surrounding the proposed retail center.
It is not yet known whether Horizon Group will purchase the property from AKDB or if Schnatter's company will lease the land. However, Horizon Group has been promoting the property for more than six months, with a brochure on its Web site that states leasing information is available through Executive Vice President Andrew Pelmoter.
When contacted, Pelmoter referred The Sentinel-News by E-mail to Tom Rumptz, stating that he would contact the newspaper soon. Rumptz has not replied to follow up E-mail messages.
Because the Horizon Group has not commented on any time frame it may have for the project, how quickly it might move forward is difficult to determine.
Several residents of Hunters Pointe and Majestic Oaks subdivisions have been inquiring about the project and the affect it would have on their rural setting.
Some residents of that area had questioned whether or not the project was moving forward at all until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Louisville District posted a public notice that cited the company's request to fill in a 6.5-acre pond and surrounding wetlands and ephemeral tributaries of Plum Creek.
Layna Thrush, with the regulatory department of the corps of engineers, said notices are posted on the corps’ Web site and then sent to adjacent property owners and other people and groups that request receiving all notices.
"It's actually a pretty lengthy list," she said.
However, some of the residents in the area were caught off guard when they received word of the notice through other sources, well after its March 27 posted date. But because AKDB owns almost all the surrounding property, it likely received most of the required notices.

Army Corps’ process
The plan submitted to the Army Corps shows four of the projected buildings and some of the parking on the south side of the 60-acre project, which would sit atop of the current pond's location.
According to the notice to property owners, a request for a public hearing can be made, but that request must state the specific interest, which might be damaged by issuance of the permit.
The corps of engineers is also soliciting comments from the public and federal, state and local agencies as well.
"It's a very stringent process," Thrush said. "We look at the public and governmental agency input before we decide anything."
Because of the drastic changes to the area, Horizon Group, through its agent Scientific Studies Company, has suggested the purchase of “in-lieu fee” credits through the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Stream and Wetland Mitigation Trust Fund.
Those fees allow the company to prepay the potential costs for maintaining the watershed properly despite the filling in of the pond and wetlands. That cost remains to be determined.
"Those are paid by the applicant to fish and wildlife for the impact to the waters on the site," Thrush said. "Money from those credits is used for impacts in that watershed. The number of credits needed is determined after we do our study, and we attach the watershed to that."
Thrush said it is too early in the project to know how many credits could be required.
"We are still at the very beginning," she said. "At the end of the comment period [April 26], we'll know much more about this. By that point we'll know if there are any state agencies that have commented and want us to look further into it and what the public interest is."

The approval process
Company officials have been in contact with Simpsonville city officials, as recently as last week, and they have spoken with the Triple S Planning Commission’s office.
Simpsonville City Administrator David Eaton said the company only has talked to the city in general terms.
"I think they're just doing their due diligence right now," he said on Wednesday. "It's been about a week since we've talked to them about water and sewer availability. They haven't officially asked us to do anything, but they have been in contact with us a few times in the last weeks."
Ryan Libke, the executive director for Triple S, said he has met with officials from Horizon, but that was months ago.
Libke said he thinks if the property receives the permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, than the company would be back in his office quickly.

Zone change required
However, from that point the public would have input on any changes.
"Just the pond included in the notice, about two-thirds of that is zone IC [interstate commerce] and about a third is Ag [agricultural], and that's just the pond. A lot of the land they're looking at is considered IC in the future land use map, so it does agree with the comprehensive plan. But there will still need to be a zone-change request and a public hearing along with that."
The zone-change request would have to be voted on by the Triple S Zoning Commission for a recommendation to the City of Simpsonville. However, the city does not have to take the commission's request, the ultimate denial or approval of change will fall to the city commission.
The process would likely take several months before even making it would be back to city officials.