“Things have changed a lot in the last two months on that project,” said Joe Cook, who is executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative.
Cook and several members of his organization appeared before the Rome Redevelopment Committee reiterating their opposition to the project proposed by Rome-base R.H. Ledbetter Properties.
But the group also indicated that if the project does indeed move forward that they might not formally challenge it as long as certain criteria regarding the Burwell wetlands are satisfied.
Cook said preserving the three acres of wetlands around Burwell Creek is critical to the group. Making a connection from Jackson Hill to Ridge Ferry Park through the wetlands using boardwalks or trails is also a key element, as is physical restoration of the creek, which was in Ledbetter’s original proposal for the shopping center.
The final element important to the group’s concession to any development in the area would be an innovative storm water control plan to protect the creek.
Cook said he has submitted a copy of the group’s presentation to Ledbetter Properties.
“We have not closed the door to have discussions to improve the quality of the development for our community,” said Robert H. Ledbetter Jr.
The Corps of Engineers suspended the original permit for the project. Ledbetter Properties then withdrew the request, indicating in a
letter to the Corps of Engineers that it would be better to resubmit a new application once additional improvements to the development plan for 300,000-square-foot center had been completed.
Recognizing that the city is not likely to abandon the project, Cook said, “If we’re going to move forward, how can we make it a win-win for everybody?”
Cook said his group continues to prefer preserving the entire 80-plus-acre tract as a sort of central park for Rome.
“The creek is in pretty good health for an urban stream,” Cook told the committee. “We’ve found species that are sensitive to pollution. There’s a pretty good diversity of aquatic critters.”
Rome City Manager John Bennett said a connection through the wetlands from Jackson Hill to Ridge Ferry Park is a key element in whatever the city would agree to and the stormwater runoff issue is also very important to the city as well.
“We haven’t forgotten that,” Bennett said.