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‘Today, it betrayed the public’s trust’: Augusta leaders flip on denial of Dennis Road development



AUGUSTA, Ga. – In a Tuesday about-face, the Augusta Commission agreed to undo a decision from last week denying approval for a townhome complex off Dennis Road near the Columbia County line.

After a long session behind closed doors, the commission voted to rescind the denial and advertise it will hold a new vote May 18, according to the motion from General Counsel Wayne Brown.

The vote was 6-3 to approve with commissioners John Clarke, Sean Frantom and Catherine Smith McKnight opposed. Commissioner Brandon Garrett was absent. The vote last week was 8-2 to deny.

Despite being in Richmond County, Dennis Road is used by Columbia County school buses. Residents have complained of having to pull over on narrow Dennis to allow the buses to pass.

Clarke said the Transportation Investment Act 1% sales tax project revamping Dennis Road had been moved to the top of the list. The project is on the second tax list set to begin in 2023.

The project is the topic of ongoing litigation filed in 2019 by Purko Builders after the commission first denied the project.

Purko complained then it was denied property rights based only on neighbor complaints about traffic and drainage, while a study by former city traffic engineer Steve Cassell found the townhomes would not aggravate existing traffic congestion and a nearby development was denser than the one it proposed.

Clarke said the area will now contend with a “quagmire” of both construction and road work around their homes.

Purko is now proposing a smaller 22-home development located directly behind the home of Jessica and Wesley Brown. The couple objected to Tuesday’s decision.

“We are deeply disappointed with today’s vote. The commission made its true feelings apparent when a strong majority on April 20 voted to put the health and safety of citizens above development,” the couple said in a statement. “Today, it betrayed the public’s trust when it went back on that decision.”

Last week, Wesley Brown presented a petition signed by 135 opposed residents who live in the area.