Posted: Monday, October 1st 2012 at 9:25pm
Planning Commission tables Price Road development
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – Things got a bit tense at Monday evening’s meeting of the Hall County Planning Commission.
At one point Chairman Don Smallwood had to tap his gavel several times before giving it a resounding "bang" and bringing wide-eyed silence to the room.
"I’ll do the talking, okay?" Smallwood said firmly.
Impassioned audience members had been exchanging comments as both sides presented their arguments over a rezoning request being considered by the Commission.
Murrayville developer Steve McKibbon, on behalf of Riverbrook Village Development Partners, was requesting permission to build 288 apartments on an 82-acre tract of land located at the intersection of Price and Thompson Bridge Roads.
In November, 2006, that tract had been granted zoning for the construction of 45 upscale town homes having no less than 2,000 square feet of heated floor space. Later plans by McKibbon sought to raise the number of town homes to 62, but that appeal never reached final approval by the Hall County Commission.
The subsequent economic downturn and stagnation in the real estate market postponed the construction of the planned neighborhood.
But McKibbon now feels that there is market demand for upscale apartments. "There have been no apartments built in Gainesville / north since the year 2000. None of the existing product out there addresses today’s renter," he said.
The complex is also planned to contain 316,000 square feet of commercial space.
The main entrance into the complex is planned to coincide with Walnut Grove Way off Price Road, and that is where the conflict begins.
Jeremy Griffey is vice-president of the Walnut Grove Homeowners Association, a 153 residence subdivision; Walnut Grove Way is their sole means of ingress and egress for the community.
Griffey says that the change from 62 town homes to 288 apartments is something his Association is firmly against and that they are upset about not being notified regarding the planned change.
McKibbon countered by telling the Commission that he had written letters to the affected property owners, offering to meet with them individually, but none had accepted his offer.
"I did write every one of these local landowners a letter…and did offer to meet with all of them personally… not one of them contacted us," McKibbon said.
Griffey, in response, and echoed by numerous other Walnut Grove residents in the audience, said that no one had received a letter.
"And if he’s disappointed with the feedback today I can bring 152 more people with me to the Board of Commissioners meeting if it goes forward that far," Griffey said. "Nobody in our community approves of this."
It was at this point that Chairman Smallwood found it necessary to silence the room.
Smallwood turned to McKibbon and asked if he thought it would be possible to hold meetings with the residents of Walnut Grove and try to find some common ground. McKibbon agreed.
Smallwood asked the homeowners, "Is the neighborhood willing to meet? It’s in your best interest to do that because when we (the Planning Commission) do it we’re not going to satisfy everybody."
Upon their agreement to meet with each other the Commission voted to table the rezoning request until their November 19th meeting.
"You’re going to have to work it out with your neighbors," Smallwood reminded everyone.
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