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Hall commission approves Portofino site

Plan calls for 261 homes and 40 docks along Duckett Mill Road

POSTED: February 5, 2008 5:03 a.m.

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Following five Hall County residents’ vehement opposition to a 261-home development on Lake Lanier, Hall County Commissioners approved the 217-acre venture at Thursday’s board meeting with a 4-1 vote.

The developer, Fred Milani, first filed a rezoning request for the Portofino at Lake Lanier subdivision located along Duckett Mill Road, on March 8. But the commission denied the initial request, which asked for the property to be rezoned from residential and vacation cottage to planned residential development, on the basis that the plan was too aggressive.

Milani then filed a lawsuit against the county, officially stating his disagreement with the commission’s vote, according to Hall County Attorney Bill Blalock.

At the county commission work session Tuesday, Blalock said that if Milani’s second plan for Portofino was approved, Milani would likely drop the lawsuit.

The initial plan incited fierce opposition from the local community, with more than 200 residents attending the March meeting in opposition.

According to the Hall County Planning Commission’s recommendation to the county commission, the Portofino site plan initially called for 284 lots and 52 docks, and in the second plan, the county approved the development of 261 lots and 40 docks. A boat storage facility was originally proposed within the development, but was struck from the second plan.

At Thursday’s meeting, five residents spoke against the development, citing disapproval of the quarter-acre sized lots and high housing density. About 25 other residents who opposed the Portofino development also attended the meeting.

"The primary opposition is the density," said Hall County resident Randy Murphy, who spoke against the development at the Thursday meeting. "He’s working to put 261 homes now on 271 acres, and the only way that he can do that is to put in a septic system. Our concern ... is that the septic systems may not be as reliable and robust as they need to be."

But the commission approved Milani’s second rezoning request at Thursday’s meeting, which granted the developer the ability to build more homes on the property than if it had remained zoned as residential and vacation cottage.

Other residents who spoke against the development had concerns about more lakeside development being approved during the drought.

"With the drought, the foreclosure situation in real estate and the whole recession thing ... why would it make sense to increase the density from where it was zoned to where he wants it?" said Hall County resident Steve Naughton.

County Commissioner Billy Powell, who presides over District 2, said he voted to approve the project because the developer did work through the public process, and held multiple meetings that included residents from the communities close to the Portofino site.

"The economics will take care of itself," Powell said. "They won’t build them if there’s not a demand. We can’t withhold rezoning approvals based on an economic condition we don’t have control over."

Representation from the developer stated Milani anticipates a five- to seven-year buildout for the project.

As a condition for approval, the county commission mandated the development have a minimum homesize of 3,500 square feet, rather than that applicant’s proposed 2,500-square-foot minimum. The commission also required the developer to assist in funding a traffic signal at Ga. 53 and Duckett Mill Road.



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