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Developers eye Spout Springs area for projects

POSTED: January 16, 2009 11:26 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

This segment of Spout Springs Road was a traditional residential area until businesses and other commercial entities began to develop.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — From his home atop one of the rolling hills on Spout Springs Road, Dan Dacus has seen the area change from quiet countryside to suburban sprawl.

And he’s ready to bolt to a sleepier homeplace, perhaps in North Hall, having stuck a "for sale" sign in his yard.

"I think change is good," he said. However, "if you (live) directly on Spout Springs Road, then it greatly affects you. It affects your access to your property. We’re having an extremely hard time getting in and out of the driveway."

The South Hall traffic artery cuts through what has been one of the fastest-growing areas in the county, with subdivisions and shopping centers having sprung up at either end — Interstate 985 and Braselton — and mostly subdivisions, including the massive Sterling on the Lake, filling the middle.

The economy has slowed the growth, particularly new homes. Yet there have been some signs, literally and otherwise, that when it recovers, commercial development could sweep into the area’s now mostly residential landscape.

Realtor signs advertising "potential commercial" dot both sides of the road heading east from Hog Mountain Road, some on vacant lots and others in front of long-established homes.

"I recently moved into the area from Forsyth County ... in 2007, so I realize that things were happening on Spout Springs Road, and I wanted my sign on the road," said Gail Jung, a RE/MAX Realtor who represents area several residents, including Dacus.

"I started talking to homeowners about the potential for the area ... and staying in touch with the (Georgia Department of Transportation) and Flowery Branch as far as sewer (availability) and their plans to expand."

Jung said she also worked to keep the residents "up to date as to what was happening and how they could possibly capitalize on the change that’s coming in the area."

She added, "There are others I’ve been talking to and they are open to selling, just not open necessarily to me putting a yard in their sign yet. So, I’ve been working on quite a few assemblages. They see what is happening and they are trying to basically embrace the change."

Hall County Planning Director Randy Knighton said "the vast majority of (unincorporated) property on Spout Springs Road down to Thompson Mill Road (in Braselton) is currently zoned residential."

There are no pending commercial rezoning requests on the road, he added. However, at least two lots are currently under commercial development.

Grading is under way for a Walgreen pharmacy and possibly another retail building at Hog Mountain Road in Flowery Branch. Workers are laying sewer lines on Hog Mountain across from Blockbuster store for that project, City Planner James Riker said.

About a mile east of that site, Jody Brookshire, a physicist with Avery Dennison Corp. in Flowery Branch, is developing a Texaco Xpress Lube Center, which he hopes will open in March.

"I’ve been watching this area grow and saw a need that was unserviced in the area, and I took it from there," he said of his draw to the area.

Also, in November, Clarkesville-based Habersham Bank opened a three-story branch that it hopes to turn into its Southern regional base.

And the Flowery Branch City Council approved commercial development on four acres at the entrance of Sterling on the Lake, which has been approved for 1,964 homes on nearly 1,000 acres.

Seeing how sewer availability fuels commercial growth, council members are looking at loosening rules on sewer reservation in an effort to lure more developers. The city also is moving forward on plans to eventually double sewer capacity at its treatment plant.

Stale economy aside, motorists fill Spout Springs Road every day, especially during morning and evening rush hours.

They’re headed also to Spout Springs at I-985, which has turned into a retail hub. Shopping centers on either side are teeming with restaurants and stores, and a five-story, 84-room Hampton Inn & Suites opened in December.

Stirring up traffic later in the year will be the opening of a new $36.5 million Flowery Branch High School near Elizabeth Lane.

How Spout Springs will look in a few years is the big question for motorists and residents alike.

Government officials have been talking for several years about widening the road to four lanes, but with current economic conditions and the DOT struggling for money, that may be a far-off project.

As far as the Spout Springs area itself, "I don’t know that it’s going to be as big-box developed as (the area west of) Hog Mountain Road," Jung said. "I think it will be smaller strip centers, office space and maybe some fast food (restaurants)."

The land’s elevation rises and falls around parts of Spout Springs, but that may not necessarily stop progress, said Dave Casper, a Realtor with The Norton Agency who is teaming up with other agents to sell some big pieces of land just east of Hog Mountain Road.

"If you want to spend enough money ... you could build on it," he said.

As for Dacus, a retired Gwinnett County police officer, he sees nothing but explosive growth in Spout Springs’ future.

"I want to move back out to the country," he said. "We lived out in the country for about 28 years and now the city has caught up with us."



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