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Oakwood might allow structures of 80 feet

POSTED: December 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Fred Moses recalls a day when Mundy Mill Road was a quiet road in the country.

Today, Buford-based developer Wayne Clark & Associates is talking about trying to draw a six- to eight-story hotel behind his longtime tire business at the corner of Interstate 985.

"I think it would make my property worth a lot more money," Moses said.

Oakwood, drawing some interest from hotel chains, is planning to hold a public hearing tonight on a proposal to increase the maximum height for highway businesses to 80 feet from 50.

The hearing is part of the council’s monthly meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. and takes place at Oakwood City Hall, 4035 Walnut Circle.

The council approved the change on first reading Nov. 13 and is set to give its final consideration tonight.

City officials, who had conducted an informal survey of neighboring communities on the height issue, such as Gainesville and Flowery Branch, had recommended increasing the maximum height to 65 feet.

Council members then suggested the bump to 80.

There was some discussion at the Oakwood Planning Commission last month about a developer wanting a height of 100 feet.

At that meeting, Wayne Clark officials got the commission’s
approval for rezonings and annexations for a proposed mixed-retail development that may someday feature a big-box anchor and high-rise hotel.

The development would be on 21 acres between I-985 and Atlanta Highway, with a new road running through the development between Atlanta Highway and Mundy Mill Road.

As part of its OK, the commission "left it up to us to work it out at the staff level as to what we would recommend to the council about the height thing," said Oakwood City Planner Larry Sparks.

The council would consider annexing and rezoning the 21-acre site separately from the height change.

Regardless of how things shake out with the votes, interest apparently is stirring in Oakwood as a hotel destination.

Wayne Clark is the third property owner and/or developer that "has mentioned that they have been talking to some hotels about locating on their property, and all three of them are located in that area along (I-985)," Sparks said.

"But we haven’t had any plans submitted to us from a hotel for anything specific."

Property owners know they’re sitting on a "prime location for a motel or hotel ... and (these) are good locations, and I suspect we’re going to see a couple of them locate here when the economy picks up again."

City officials have said they expect new growth and redevelopment particularly as the Georgia Department of Transportation’s $75 million makeover of I-985 at Mundy Mill draws to a close in February 2010.

Growth also has been humming in Flowery Branch, which increased its maximum height allowance to 60 feet from 45 feet in September 2007, said James Riker, planning director for the city.

Hampton Inn & Suites, which is five stories tall, is set to hold its grand opening Dec. 18. The hotel is located off Holland Dam Road and overlooks Spout Springs Road and I-985.

Gainesville has a 120-foot height, or eight-story, allowance in its central business district and 75 feet for general businesses, or five stories.

Gainesville City Center LLC is proposing to develop a nine-story office building in Midtown, "but they are allowed to do that because (it is part of a) planned unit development," said Rusty Ligon, the city’s planning director.

"That’s what those districts are intended for — to allow for flexibility in design."

Moses said if a hotel ever develops behind his store, he would be open to selling his property and allowing for further commercial growth or possibly another access to the 21-acre development.

"They could make such a good deal that I couldn’t refuse," he said.



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