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Hall rejects 608 homes on 418 acres

Gainesville cleared to buy old Hall jail

POSTED: December 25, 2007 5:02 a.m.

The Hall County Commission denied a rezoning request for a 608-unit residential development in northwest Hall opposed by many in the area.

More than 50 North Hall residents attended the meeting, wearing red to show disapproval of the proposed 418-acre development on the north side of Price Road at Dudley Hill Road.

The planning commission had voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the plan, but commissioners voted 5-0 to deny the request. United Central Investments wanted the land rezoned from agricultural residential and vacation cottage to planned residential and commercial development.

In addition to the homes, United Central Investments had planned a day care center, boat storage and multiple office and retail centers. Residents worried about the size of the development, and developers reduced the number of homes from 1,242 to 608. Originally, United Central Investments also aimed to build an on-site elementary school.

The commission’s vote to consider the rezoning of the Home Town development had been delayed numerous times since the developer submitted its plans.

Several North Hall residents spoke against the Home Town project at Thursday’s commission meeting, voicing concerns about the area’s inability to accommodate the development’s population influx. Residents said they believed the 608-unit subdivision would overcrowd schools, congest roadways and pollute nearby Lake Lanier.

Al Marks lives on Yellow Creek Road near the site of the proposed Home Town development, and is a member of the Northwest Hall Preservation Association, a group that formed in an effort to slow development in the area.

"We wanted to beat this very badly. It was a very emotional thing," Marks said. "It was a community effort ... and we won the first round, that’s all. There’s probably nine more rounds."

Marks said he anticipates that residents of northwest Hall will have to rally again in upcoming months to keep area development at a slow pace.

Another development planned for the North Hall area was withdrawn Monday. Developer Rochester and Associates withdrew its 54-acre plan in northwest Hall to develop 70 single-family homes or 54 age-restricted homes at Hiawatha Drive and Tomacheche Trail.

Hall County Planning Director Randy Knighton said the 60 residents who attended the Nov. 19 planning commission meeting in opposition of the Rochester and Associates project may have had an impact on the developer’s decision to withdraw the proposal from the county’s rezoning agenda.

In other business, the commissioners approved the sale of the old Hall County jail property to the City of Gainesville for $4 million.

On Dec. 4, Gainesville officials passed a resolution to sanction the city’s purchase of the property on Main Street, pending approval by the county.

Following months of negotiation, the Hall County and Gainesville officials came to an agreement for the city to purchase the jail and to lease it back to the county for 7.5 years. The lease will enable the county to sublease the property to Corrections Corporation of America, a jail management firm.

Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler said the agreement could bring the county some $18 million in revenue from the sale and lease of the Main Street property, which could assist in the costs of the county’s new jail on Calvary Church Road.

"It’s a good deal for Gainesville and a good deal for Hall County," said county Commissioner Billy Powell.

Powell said there is a clause in the resolution that allows the city to cancel the lease at five years. But if the lease was canceled at the five-year point, the city would be responsible for reimbursing the county for the foregone revenue in the remaining 2.5 years of the contract, and for reimbursing Corrections Corporation of America for any cancellation penalties incurred.



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