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Developer at odds with neighbors over boat storage facility

POSTED: December 30, 2013 11:36 p.m.

They want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, in the mind of Debra Gurley.

Paradise is her lakefront neighborhood off Mountain View Drive, and the parking lot is for boats. But she and others are fighting a rezoning of the 3.8-acre site to planned commercial from residential, which would allow the boat storage facility. 

The site fronts Mountain View and Propes drives, which are lined with a number of new, large, expensive homes.

“My wife and I spent five years searching for a piece of property to build on up here,” said Gary Garrett, who moved to the area from Alpharetta and has joined Gurley to fight the rezoning. “And about four years ago we selected the property, and just last year we tore down the old 1960s cabin and built a brand-new home here on Propes Drive only to find out a year later that we’ve got somebody who wants to put a commercial piece of property right at the entrance to our neighborhood.”

Developer Tim Whitmire lives at the site and plans to have 116 boat slips, an existing house to serve as an office, and a larger existing house that would be used as a private residence. 

He brought the plan to the Hall County Planning Commission in October, and when about 150 residents showed up in red shirts opposing the plan, he asked the commission to table the item until Jan. 6 so he could work things out with his neighbors.

“I live there on the property and (am) planning on staying there,” Whitmire said at the October meeting. “I just don’t want to be a bad neighbor. I feel like I’ve always tried to do quality developments in this area.”

Whitmire said Monday he had hoped to meet with residents to find middle ground, but he said it seemed residents only wanted to talk him out of the plans, not find a compromise.

“You can’t meet with anyone that doesn’t have an open mind about it,” he said.

Garrett, Gurley and her husband said they are most worried the rezoning will set a precedent.

“This is the first domino to fall on a road that comes deep into the lake properties of 443 homes, and we just don’t want to see it even started,” Garrett said.

Gurley, who works in real estate, said there are other large plots of land where she and her neighbors believe others may want to eventually rezone. 

Whitmire said he hoped to add to the community by meeting a need for boat storage and creating more of a presence at Balus Creek Park, an Army Corps of Engineers property with a boat ramp, which is within sight of his lot. Whitmire said the area has some problems with crime.

“I think the possibility of having a residence office ... could put just a better presence of people not wanting to go down there and do crazy things,” he said, “because that happens a lot, because I live right there at the property so I understand it.”

Gurley, who has lived in the area for about 17 years, said there’s not much crime other than a few car break-ins. She and her neighbors said the boat storage facility could even increase crime as the boats become targets for thieves. 

They’re also concerned about more traffic on the small, winding roads, light pollution from the facility and the impacts of water runoff that may be created by paving the lot.

The group spent the weekend passing out flyers and putting up signs. Members have even put together a website, www.noboatstorage.com. They plan to fill the room at the planning commission meeting.

The issue is on the agenda for the meeting at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.

“We all feel like we have a lot to lose if this goes forward, and that’s why we’re fighting it so hard,” Gurley said.


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