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For its own rezoning request, Gainesville does as Gainesville says

POSTED: February 10, 2008 5:05 a.m.

Gainesville will bring a rezoning request before the city’s own Planning and Appeals Board on Feb. 12.

In two applications to the city planning department, Gainesville has proposed to rezone about 235 acres of property for an industrial park between Barber Road and New Harvest Road. Twenty acres of the property, located at 1694 and 1700 Barber Road, must be annexed into the city limits before it can be rezoned for heavy industrial use. The 20-acre tract is owned by Hall County and is adjacent to the new Hall County Jail; the remainder of the property is owned by the city.

Most likely, a member of the planning department or the city manager’s office will present the request to the planning board on behalf of the city, said Gainesville City Manager Bryan Shuler. The planning board can make a recommendation, but the Gainesville City Council will make the final decision on the annexation and rezoning requests.

Shuler said it is not a conflict of interest for the Gainesville City Council to decide on a request by Gainesville.

"Since staff doesn’t vote on any of this — it’s obviously a City Council matter — you keep some distance there," he said.

It is not often that the City Council must vote on its staff’s applications, but Shuler said it has to be done. Property has to be zoned, and the City Council is the only group that can zone property.

"It’s done in the open and people can judge the appropriateness of the land-use decision, but the City Council is the only entity that can take the action," Shuler said. "If it was a conflict of interest, you could never do anything with any property owned by the city as far as zoning is concerned."

The city originally purchased the 210.73 acres facing New Harvest Road to use as a spray field for wastewater. That was never done, Shuler said.

"Most times, real estate is bought for a specific purpose, and it’s developed in that way," Shuler said. "Occasionally, land is bought ... conditions change, and new opportunities present themselves.

"I guess this particular project would fall in that category."

All the details of the project have not yet been worked out, but the city plans to combine the two tracts of land and make the property available for the development of an industrial park.

Shuler said the city has run into a problem with industrial property.

"Our available inventory of industrial property is dwindling," Shuler said. "We’ve sold almost every piece of property in all of the city industrial parks."

The rezoning to heavy industrial would make more property in the city available for industrial development, "so when industry is looking at our community, there are sites to show them," Shuler said.

The city does not have a specific industry in mind for the property, Shuler said.

"I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of manufacturing-type industries here, because of its location," Shuler said. "But you’d see more warehouse distribution, and some limited manufacturing use is possible."

Although the 20-acre tract facing Barber Road is owned by Hall County, the city has no plans to purchase the property, Shuler said.

Instead, the industrial park will be a joint effort between the city and the county. The city and the county both will pay for the extension of water and sewer services to the property. The Gainesville-Hall County Development Authority most will likely manage the development and sale of the property, Shuler said.

"(The 20 acres) really has no value (to the county) as it relates to any needs for the jail in the future, but it could add great value to the development of an industrial park," Shuler said. "That’s why they are in agreement with participating."


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