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Gainesville officials to reconsider zoning change

Developers ask for modification of shopping center

POSTED: March 1, 2013 12:46 a.m.

Developers with America’s Home Place Inc. have asked Gainesville City Council to modify conditions the Planning and Appeals Board approved for a shopping center off Dawsonville Highway.

The proposed zoning change was discussed Thursday morning at the City Council’s work session. The company, an independent custom home builder, is asking the city to rezone about 25 acres to develop a 246,000-square-foot shopping center across from recently built restaurants Olive Garden, Cheddar’s Casual Cafe and Buffalo Wild Wings, and near the Lakeshore Heights subdivision. The plan has generated controversy among the neighborhood residents, with many speaking in opposition at the Planning and Appeals Board meeting Feb. 12. City Council members are expected to consider the request at their meeting on Tuesday.

“They have a tenant ready to go on part of this first phase, lots and lots of interest on the second phase, so it may all actually happen at once,” said Rusty Ligon, Gainesville Community Development director.

The Planning and Appeals Board approved 11 conditions, including three staggered rows of evergreen trees between the rear of the buildings and the adjacent subdivision, an 8-foot high black vinyl-coated security fence in the back and no vehicle access from the proposed development to the Lakeshore Heights neighborhood, except for utility vehicles. 

The landscaping has to be in place at the beginning, Ligon said. Potential tenants are waiting for the process to play out before committing.

Developers are asking the council to reduce the trees to two rows and cut the height of the fence to 6 feet.

City Council members asked Ligon and Planning Manager Matt Tate several questions residents have raised, including why the development has to be on Dawsonville Highway instead of on Thompson Bridge Road.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said he wished he could see this type of development on Thompson Bridge. Dunagan said there is a restaurant looking to come to Gainesville, but has ruled out Thompson Bridge.

“They want Dawsonville Highway,” he said. “You can’t force them.”

Concerns raised by residents also include decreased property values, noise and security.

Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said she wants community development’s presentation to cover the issue in great detail so residents understand that council members have asked the questions they raised. Figueras said that development is good, but the proposed shopping center is not a done deal yet.

The property is within one of the 13 character areas that are part of the updated Gainesville 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The aim is to turn this area of Ga. 53, part of the Gateway Corridor, into a regional retail center for the city and Hall County. The project is expected to create 500 jobs, and Councilman George Wangemann said creating those jobs is critical to the economy and good for the community.

“That’s significant for Gainesville,” Wangemann said.

Ligon announced that Party City is moving next to the Tuesday Morning store in the Village Shoppes at Gainesville on Dawsonville Highway, which started a conversation on the area’s redevelopment. Party City is going to fill in some of those vacant storefronts, and another tenant is moving into the company’s soon-to-be former location.

Other developments on Dawsonvile Highway include the old Blockbuster video rental store turning into a Mattress Firm store.

“I love seeing all that redevelopment there, because a lot of places would have just gone and left it abandoned,” Ligon said.


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