“We’re still moving forward,” said Wright Ledbetter, executive vice president of operations for R.H. Ledbetter Properties Inc. “We remain very committed to this project and excited about its potential for Rome and Floyd County.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspended this month the construction permit it issued for the nearly 300,000-square-foot shopping center on city-owned property across from Ridge Ferry Park.
Burwell Creek runs through the site, which also contains a closed city landfill, wetlands and a flood plain. When Coosa River Basin Initiative opponents pointed out that the planned earth-moving wasn’t for the purpose of cleaning up the landfill, as the permit application had stated, the Corps called a halt.
“All activities or work subject to Department of Army jurisdiction that were previously authorized by the suspended permit must immediately cease,” reads the letter to Ledbetter from David E. Crosby, acting chief of the USACE regulatory division.
“Following this suspension, a decision will be made to reinstate, modify or revoke the permit,” it continues.
Joe Cook, executive director of CRBI, said he believes water protection regulations will ultimately kill the shopping center. The tract, he said, is an important piece of greenspace that should be preserved. “The wetlands and the flood plain there help protect other property from flooding,” he said. “They also provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and help filter pollutants from Burwell Creek and the Oostanaula River.
“They also provide a place for people to experience a little bit of nature in downtown Rome.”
Ledbetter said original plans for the property have been changed to preserve more of the land, and they no longer intend to reroute
the creek. That’s why he says the permit suspension is not a major issue.
“We’ve made substantial improvements to the project plan, and these improvements will require separate permits anyway,” he said.
Rome City Commissioner Kim Canada chairs the redevelopment committee that’s been overseeing the project since the city granted Ledbetter an option in 2007. Canada said Rome has no other immediate plans for the vacant land, so the delay alone doesn’t change things.
“The committee is committed to it, as long as permits
are in place,” he said. “We’re still supportive of it for the economic impact, the jobs and sales tax revenue it will have.”
Canada said the Ledbetters “have been very diligent” about ensuring the Citi Center project will be environmentally and financially sound — and he’s willing to wait until its foundation is solid.
“I don’t want it to be a project that gets started and then stops,” he said. “I want them to be 100 percent committed to it before it starts.”
Crosby’s letter did not indicate when the permit issue may be resolved, but Cook said he is hoping a hearing will be scheduled to allow for more public involvement in the process.