Helena plans town center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A new town center for the city of Helena hit several barriers at the city council and planning and zoning joint meeting last week.

Dan Rasmussen with Store Growth and Development LLC said he believes the new development would be a service to the community.

&8220;This is supposed to be a neighborhood shopping center with some food alternatives as well as some services type uses,&8221; Rasmussen said.

But city leaders are concerned about light and sound buffers, as well as traffic flow and the type of businesses that could move into the 24-acre development.

&8220;The bottom line here … is we want as much protection for those lots in Falliston as we can possibly get, and what (the developer) is showing right now is not enough,&8221; said Katherine Ennis, city council and planning and zoning commission member.

The development would sit between Winn Dixie and Highway 261. While no particular business has signed on to the deal, restaurants such as Zaxby&8217;s, Starbucks and Taco Bell were mentioned in the meeting.

Rasmussen also mentioned the possibility of realty, medical supply and insurance companies occupying many of the buildings.

City councilwoman Barbara Hyche said she expected more retail shops and not office buildings. &8220;It&8217;s got to be a destination. Now you&8217;ve got to have something that&8217;s going to draw people,&8221; Hyche said. &8220;From the get-go we were talking retail.&8221;

Pam Hunter lives off of Helena Road and owns a house that would have to be bought for the project to continue. Hunter thinks the city is holding up positive change.

&8220;We don&8217;t live in an exclusive residential area. There has been a lot of heel dragging here but it&8217;s already commercial,&8221; Hunter said. &8220;Helena, their Web site says they are a progressive community. If you are going to put yourself out there as being progressive stop pretending like its 1950.&8221;

Rasmussen looked for more guidance from the council as to what they were looking for in the area.

&8220;If I could know what type of use would be accepted throughout this whole project and if I knew my boundaries then I could go and visit with potential tenets,&8221; Rasmussen said.

City leaders asked Rasmussen to rework the proposal to show some of the changes discussed, such as wider and thicker barriers between proposed lots and residential areas and more green space.

The council also wanted to make sure the businesses going in would provide some financial benefit to the city.