RUSH Ministries is looking to expand the amenities available on the Northridge Church property located at the old Hickory Ridge Golf Course on the north side of town. The group was granted a special exception by the Upson County Planning Commission in March of this year to build Phase 1 recreational facilities for their One Day RUSH event held in May, but now would like to add other amenities in addition to those listed. RUSH founder Marc Pritchett met with the Planning Commission on August 10 to informally discuss the possibility of making the terms of what is allowed to be more general when pertaining to recreation.
“The conditions from the One Day event seem to limit what we can do, even if it is something as simple of wanting to put up a volleyball court,” said Pritchett. “So, we just wanted to check with the board about making amendments to get some leeway.”
The Phase I special exception included a food service area, a stage/amphitheater with associated seating, a paintball area, Frisbee area, rock wall climbing area, zip lines, pond blobs and platforms, water slides/ slip-in-slides and a football area. Pritchett told the board the rock wall was brought in just for the One Day event and is no longer on the property. He continued stating RUSH would like to have the ability to add things like a volley ball court, archery area, trails throughout the property and possibly few cabins so they could host overnight retreats. The cabins would be contingent on RUSH obtaining grants to fund the project.
“Our goal is not to focus so much on the large scale onetime events, but to look at what we can do with local civic groups and organizations,” said Pritchett, noting they currently allow the Upson-Lee Cross Country team to practice on the property and have been contacted by Wounded Warriors to work with their organization.
Planning Commission Chairman Freddie Harp stated he did not see any problem with what the group was requesting, however, as discussed at the meeting in March, he and the rest of the board do not want activities to include any motorized vehicles such as four wheelers or dirt bikes. Commissioner Andrew Pippin also stated he had an issue with making the list of activities very specific because he gave the example if RUSH wanted to play soccer and it was not listed on the approved list, then they would technically be in violation. Planning and Zoning Director Doug Currier, II, agreed that more general terms for recreation would be best to use. Commissioner James Ellington added he would like to see a five-year plan of what the organization would like to do with the property, so the planning commission would have a general idea of what would be to come.
At the meeting, the board was split over whether or not Mr. Pritchett should have to go back through the proper applications and advertising of the requests to change what was granted with the special exception. Commissioner Pippin and Commissioner Mike Raines thought the board should be able grant the requests at that time, however Commissioner Ellington and Chairman Harp felt it would be best to go back through the proper process to make sure everything was legal.
“I don’t think 30 days is going to make or break it,” said Chairman Harp. “And I think we need to have the legal proceedings in place. Since it was adopted through formal proceedings, it should be amended the same way.”
The board charged Currier with the task of finding out if they could hold a special meeting to amend the special exception without RUSH having to go through the application process; or if they had to go through the process could the fee be waived. Following the meeting, Currier spoke with the county attorney and was told RUSH Ministries would have to go back through the application process and would have to pay the application fee. The amendment is tentatively set to be on the agenda for the September meeting of the Planning Commission should RUSH have the proper paperwork submitted on time.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1