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County approves South Hall development

POSTED: April 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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Hall County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning request Thursday for the construction of a 28-acre mixed-use development on the north side of Thompson Mill Road that will be part of a 67-acre lifestyles center straddling the Gwinnett County line.

Rochester and Associates Inc. applied to rezone the 28-acre tract from planned residential development and agriculture residential to planned commercial development to pave the way for a commercial, office and residential project dubbed Thompson’s Crossing. The development will be an extension of the retirement community The Village at Deaton Creek, which is located across from the Thompson’s Crossing site.

Thompson’s Crossing will span the Hall and Gwinnett county lines, with roughly 28 acres in Hall County and 39 acres in Gwinnett County. Rochester and Associates is pursuing a separate rezoning request in Gwinnett County for the 39-acre portion of the project.

Eric Masaschi, vice president of Vintage Communities, is working with Rochester and Associates to develop Thompson’s Crossing, and said construction could begin late this year and should be completed in 2015. Vintage Communities also developed The Village at Deaton Creek.

Masaschi said Thompson’s Crossing will be a lifestyles center similar to The Forum in Norcross.

"It will be an urban village with tree-lined streets that’s very walkable," Masaschi said. "The retail, village and residential all come together to create a place where people will want to spend the afternoon."

Site plans submitted to the county for the

project call for 108 residential units in Hall County, including townhomes, apartments and "big house condos" that mimic the style of brick mansions. Masaschi said the master-planned community aims to attract young professionals and empty nesters to its upscale housing that will range in price from $300,000 to $600,000 per unit.

The Board of Commissioners also approved 529,000 square feet of retail and office space within the Hall County portion of the development, as well as a 200-room hotel.

If Gwinnett County approves the remaining segment of Thompson’s Crossing, the development will contain approximately 783,000 square feet of retail and office space, 657 residential units and a 200-room hotel, which developers said will complement the nearby Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Hall County Commissioner Bobby Banks, who represents the district encompassing Thompson’s Crossing, said he is pleased that 67 percent of its commercial development falls within Hall County.

"It’s really going to add to the tax base. We’re looking at millions of dollars a year revenue to the county by way of property tax and sales tax," Banks said. "I think we got the better end of the deal because we’re trying to get away from residential as much as possible."

Masaschi said upscale stores such as Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft and Victoria’s Secret are among the potential retail components planned for the development. Masaschi said he also plans to incorporate a Trader Joe’s into the project, as well as locally owned boutiques and art galleries. He added that an amphitheater could be built within the development as a site for concerts, picnicking and community events.

Nearly 20 residents of The Village at Deaton Creek attended the Hall County Planning Commission meeting on March 3 to voice support for the development. Two Village residents spoke in support of the project at the county board meeting Thursday, one of whom expressed concerns regarding sewer infrastructure for the project.

Brian Rochester, executive vice president of Rochester and Associates, responded to the resident’s concerns of sewer odor wafting from the street near his home.

"The county has a new $25 million sewer line running down the Mulberry River, and those pump stations at The Village at Deaton Creek will be taken offline and put onto a gravity line that will pump back to Flat Creek," Rochester said. "That should solve those problems."

The fine details of sewage have yet to be pinned down for the project, Banks said.

Although Village residents generally favored the project and commissioners unanimously approved it, Riverstone Park resident Linda Wilson spoke against the development Thursday, and urged Hall County Commissioners to "use caution as you manage the development of Hall County now and in the future."

Wilson said she strongly opposed the hotel, which Masaschi said will be no more than five stories, and the multiple parking decks planned for the project.

"We moved from Gwinnett to get away from commercial development," Wilson said. "We were looking to keep a little of the rural flavor of Braselton, but it’s fast disappearing."

Wilson said she is wary of the magnitude of the development, as well as its accompanying traffic congestion.

Randy Knighton, Hall County Planning and Zoning director, said a new road, tentatively called the Thompson Mill Road realignment, will be built to accommodate the influx of traffic to the area.

Also, Banks announced at the Board of Commissioners meeting that the city of Buford annexed 67 acres of Hall County land on March 3. Banks said county officials were notified of the annexation Thursday, and a private developer has proposed the construction of an 300,000-square-foot shopping center on the annexed property.



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