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RaceTrac gets thumbs up at Seasons

POSTED: June 15, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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A RaceTrac gas station will stand on what was formerly the commercial retail portion of the Seasons on Lake Lanier planned unit development after all.

However, managers of the gas station will be barred from receiving deliveries between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Following a heated discussion between Gainesville City Council members and an audience of nearly 70 Seasons on Lake Lanier residents, the council held its final vote on the issue. The vote ended in a 3-2 decision to approve Easlan Capital of Atlanta’s bid to rezone a little more than 10 acres of the Seasons Planned Unit Development to allow for 1.6 acres of what Easlan promises will be an upscale, 10-pump gas station.

As they have done previously, Councilmen George Wangemann and Bob Hamrick voted to oppose the rezoning.

As a concession, council members added a condition to the zoning amendment that will keep the gas station from accepting any deliveries between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Hamrick requested that if the zoning was going to pass against the homeowners’ will, then there should be some concessions.

Several residents of the 55-and-older community attended the meeting to oppose the rezoning that they say will affect their quality of life and decrease the value of their homes. After the vote, as the audibly upset residents filed out of the meeting, one woman said, "We’ll see you in court."

Before council members voted on the rezoning, Mayor Myrtle Figueras accused Wangemann of verbally attacking Councilwoman Ruth Bruner, who said her decision was not a feel-good decision after she seconded Councilman Danny Dunagan’s motion to approve the rezoning.

"None of this feels good," Bruner said.

Bruner told residents at the meeting that by approving the rezoning, the council could control what the commercial project would look like.

"I would just say, you know, a good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it," Wangemann said in response to Bruner’s comments.

It was a response that caused the audience to erupt in applause, but one Figueras called an "attack."

"Mr. Wangemann is not acting like a human being," Figueras said.

Hers was not a response that was popular with the Seasons residents.

Residents of the upscale Seasons on Lanier community have vehemently opposed the rezoning of what should have been the commercial portion of their planned unit development. When they bought their homes in the Browns Bridge Road development, they were sold a vision of upscale restaurants and retail stores that would sit on the corner of Browns Bridge and McEver Roads and include a walking path from those restaurants to their 400+ acre gated community.

However, that vision was in jeopardy when the developer of their community, Levitt and Sons, filed for bankruptcy last November. Their fears were realized in February when Easlan Capital made a bid to rezone the 10 acres of commercial property with plans to sell about 1.5 acres to RaceTrac.

After Seasons residents showed up in large numbers to oppose the rezoning at a Planning and Appeals Board meeting in March, the board voted to recommend denial of the rezoning. But when the rezoning bid came before council in early May, Figueras, Bruner and Councilman Danny Dunagan all voted to approve it.

When the bid came for its second reading on May 20, only four council members were present — Dunagan was on vacation — and the remaining council members failed to pass a decisive vote.

However, the contentious issue finally came to a close Tuesday.

By the time council members got around to the budget hearing, no residents were left in the audience to "hear" about the city’s proposed $27.9 million budget.

Whether anyone heard it or not, the council voted 4-1, with Hamrick opposing, to approve a $2.20 hike in city resident’s trash and recycling collection fees.

The majority of the council must vote a second time to approve raising the rates for the ordinance to become law.

The council will vote again on trash collection rates at its 9 a.m. meeting on June 17.



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