Posted: Tuesday, March 5th 2013 at 10:05pm
G'ville Council vote upsets homeowners
By Jerry Gunn Staff
GAINESVILLE - Upset Lakeshore Heights homeowners wearing red could not persuade Gainesville City Council Tuesday night to halt or alter the rezoning of commercial property close to them on Dawsonville Highway.
Council's first reading vote was a unanimous yes after a marathon public hearing lasting well over an hour to rezone the 25 acre undeveloped tract from mostly residential to General Business.
Lake Shore Heights Association President Michael Proulx does not think council members will change their minds in two weeks before the final vote.
“This was the first reading, there is a scheduled second reading two weeks from now, and it appears the City Council has already made the decision,” Proulx said. “What they could have done at the very least is table this discussion for the second meeting and give the property owner developer an opportunity to reconsider revising or resizing this.”
Several residents who spoke said they were not opposed to the commercial center, just its size, which they felt encroached on their neighborhood. A number of them were also concerned about whether two retention ponds would drain properly and their closeness to homes.
Gainesville Attorney Jim Walters, representing developer Barry Conner of America’s Home Place Inc., said Council was persuaded there were enough buffers, enough space between the retail center and the Lakeshore Heights homes.
“The closest building will be 150 feet from the property line,” Walters said. “From buildings to residences, 80 to 90 percent of them are in the 80 to 90 yard range, right at a football field’s distance. Council decided that was sufficient buffer.”
Walters echoed city planning conditions, the most stringent so far for any commercial development locating near a residential area, reminding Council that the Planning and Appeals Board approved the project with those conditions.
“There are going to be numerous trees, 100 to 200 feet of trees between the development and these houses,” Walters added, also saying that the retention ponds would improve the drainage and would be heavily buffered and elevated and not visible.
Again, Lake Shore Heights people were skeptical. Toward the end of the hearing there were shouts from rezoning opponents in the audience that were gaveled down by Mayor Danny Dunagan. Walters also pointed out the potential economic benefit, with an estimated 500 jobs from retailers that locate in the center.
Walters’ statement in support of the development got stiff opposition from several homeowners who stood before Council. Pat Horgan said he moved to Gainesville from Dunwoody where he said commercial development overtook neighborhoods and changed the character of the city.
“I sincerely hope that the future of Gainesville is different and better than the future of Dunwoody,” Horgan said.
Economic Development Vice President Tim Evans with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce said the America’s Home Place project would be a quality development.
“We feel like the developer has made the best efforts to work with all the interested parties," Evans said. “We support the project, it has economic benefits, sales tax and property tax benefits, and those certainly help lower the tax burden for all residents."
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