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City may annex to get homes

County denied planned development in August

POSTED: December 11, 2007 7:19 a.m.

GAINESVILLE — A planned development that was deemed not acceptable for the county might be just right for the city.

This morning, Gainesville City Council members will discuss annexation of a 9.35-acre development that came to the city after being denied by the Hall County Planning Commission in August.

The developer of the land, Cleveland Highway LLC, has plans to build a 20-lot, gated subdivision on the tract, which is located on Cleveland Highway south of the Gainesville city limits. In early August, the Hall County Planning Commission voted unanimously against the 20-lot subdivision after nearly 75 people attended the meeting opposing it and Commission Chairman Don Smallwood said the development was "too much on too little" land, according to the minutes from the meeting.

Cleveland Highway LLC then withdrew its application before it went before the Hall County Commission and went to Gainesville officials, requesting annexation of the land that borders the southern city limits and rezone it for the development. On Nov. 13, the Gainesville Planning and Appeals board voted unanimously to recommend conditional approval of the annexation with a zoning of planned unit development, although residents from neighboring subdivisions spoke in opposition to the application.

The recommendation of approval was based on 15 conditions that limited the development to 18 lots, required a minimum of 15 percent green space and set rules for the development’s proposed community septic system.

Tony Herdener, a resident of Chattahoochee Landing, a subdivision across the lake from the proposed subdivision, has followed the development since it went before the county planning commission. Herdener said he, and other homeowners in the area, have no problem with development on the land, but he wants the quality of life in the subdivision to match that of neighboring subdivisions. And to Herdener, quality of life equals a less dense neighborhood than what the developer is proposing.

Planning documents say the density of the 18-lot subdivision will be about 1.93 houses per acre, but Herdener disagrees.

Herdener said once the required green space, the area of the sidewalks, the road buffers and the 2.37 acres for the septic field are subtracted from the acreage, the actual density of the subdivision is closer to 2.57 houses per acre.

"I think the development will be nice, but it’s just too many homes," Herdener said.

Planning officials say the density of the 18-lot subdivision is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, but Herdener said the plan is outdated and does not take the drought into consideration.

"The plan was developed three years ago, before the drought," Herdener said. "It’s like fighting the Iraq War with World War II plans; it’s not applicable."

The fact that the development will be on a septic system is inconsistent with what Kelly Randall, director of Gainesville’s public utilities has been saying since the city started taking measures to cut water consumption, Herdener said.

Randall has said that developments on sanitary sewer should have priority over developments on septic systems, because those on sewer will return water directly to Lake Lanier. At Monday night’s drought forum, Randall said that the city needed to have more sewer and less septic.

However, the closest sewer main is more than one mile from the proposed development, according to the planning staff documents.

Still, Herdener said it is hypocritical for Gainesville to approve such a dense neighborhood when it is already asking its residents to conserve water.

"I would contend ... that it’s not consistent ... and it’s not appropriate with the water situation."

Rusty Ligon, Gainesville’s planning director, will present the proposal to the City Council at today’s work session. However, the council will not officially vote on the annexation until its regularly scheduled Dec. 4 council meeting.



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