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Nobody protests planned big development in Flowery Branch

POSTED: September 2, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — A proposed $15 million mixed-use development planned for downtown sailed through a public hearing Thursday night with input coming only from the project’s developer.

Kellin Dobbs of Buford-based Hortman & Dobbs Developers said the company is planning "a timeless development that preserves the history of this town and yet brings new life and new appeal to downtown Flowery Branch."

He also thanked city officials in helping make the project "a reality."

"We’re looking forward to continuing with that and are certainly excited about the project, and we hope everybody else is too," Dobbs said.

The proposal now goes before City Council for a vote Wednesday at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m.

No one else had comments about the project, except for Planning Director James Riker, who talked about specific plans on the site, and a few council members, who questioned truck routes and plans to phase in the project.

The proposed Old Town Flowery Branch development includes six townhomes, 21 condominiums,
14 lofts/apartments, a grocery store, office and retail space, a nearly half-acre park and a restaurant with outdoor seating.

The project also calls for a 262-space parking deck that will resemble a historic mill building.

The city has placed 69 conditions on the development. Riker said that another developer wanting to make "wholesale changes" to the project would have to take those plans to city officials.

Dobbs said he believed the conditions are more helpful to the project than constraining.

"They protect us and allow us to build the product we want to build," he said.

The project has changed because of the economic downturn, Dobbs said.

"We’re facing difficult times now. The financial market and the real estate market have dramatically changed since we bought this property two years ago," he said.

Hortman & Dobbs now is looking at completing the project in stages, with the first phase focusing on commercial development.

Phase two would involve commercial and residential development, as well as the parking deck. The final phase, with an eye toward the housing market, would involve construction of six townhomes, Dobbs said.

The company has picked Choate Construction Co. as contractor for the project.

Dobbs said he would like to start the project later this year.

Longtime resident Henry Skipper, who attended the hearing, said afterward that he thought the project "is good for the town and good for the people."

"I hope they have success with it," Skipper said.



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