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Rezoning angers South Hall residents

Buford’s vote puts project near school, subdivision

POSTED: July 16, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Residents of a South Hall subdivision are trying to decide their next move — perhaps a legal one — following Buford’s annexation of 66 acres off Friendship Road.

The Buford City Commission voted July 1 to annex and rezone the property near Jones and Bogan roads, and also near Friendship Elementary School and Morgan’s Crossing subdivision.

Buford-based Exit Two Associates is proposing to place 20 buildings consisting of 675,000 square feet of office, industrial and distribution sites on the property, according to the application.

And though Exit Two has proposed to put up a 50-foot "sparsely vegetated" buffer, the plan "is something of great concern to our neighborhood because it backs right up to this particular piece of property," said Leana Roach, president of the Morgan’s Crossing Homeowners Association.

"We just can’t believe it," she said.

Morgan’s Crossing is a 249-home subdivision behind Friendship Elementary and straddling the Gwinnett and Hall county lines.

Roach said homeowners plan to meet Monday with their lawyers to determine the next course of action.

Atlanta lawyer Mindy C. Waitsman wrote a June 30 letter to city officials complaining that the city had not submitted the plans for review to the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Center.

"Rules state that local governments shall not take any official action related to such a project until the ... review process is completed and the local government has had adequate time to consider the ... comments," Waitsman’s letter states.

M. Haley Fleming, principal planner of the Atlanta Regional Commission, sent an e-mail July 1 to city officials stating the ARC reviews larger-scale projects for Buford.

"It appears ... that the proposed development should have been submitted (for review)," Fleming’s letter states. "According to the letter, the development includes 675,000 square feet of warehouse distribution space, which clearly crosses the 500,000 square feet (review) threshold for warehouse and distribution."

Fleming asks that the development be submitted for review as soon as possible.

"The city should not take any further action on the development until the (review) process is complete," he wrote.

Gregory D. Jay, city attorney for Buford, said Buford "fully intends to comply with its requirements (of a review) as it has on other large-scale projects."

Jay added that "some issues exist as to the appropriate timing" of submitting the plans for review, "as the project is not imminent and concepts and uses have not been identified."

Suwanee-based McFarland Dyer & Associates, which conducted a study of the property, stated in a document concerning Exit Two’s application that the annexation and rezoning appeared "to be reasonable" based on its location near Interstate 985 and Friendship Road.

"Transportation will be an issue that needs careful consideration (because of) the large amount of traffic generating uses that will occur in the area," the report stated.

Bobby Banks, commissioner for South Hall, said he believes the state legislature needs to stop municipal governments from annexing into neighboring counties, particularly if the city government has a school system.

"We have no control. We lose the county school tax and the people they’re harming the most cannot vote against them," he said.

"... They can vote to throw me out of the office if I don’t try to help them."



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