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508-acre waterfront development gets planners OK
Issue now goes to Hall Board of Commissioners for July 14 final action
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James Guyton asks questions to the Hall County Planning Commission on Monday night following a presentation for a proposed development off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211. ARW Group LLC is seeking to build a 508-acre waterfront development in South Hall near the Jackson County line.

A proposed 508-acre waterfront development in South Hall near the Jackson County line got the Hall County Planning Commission’s approval Monday night.

“This is a huge project that involves a lot of people, two or three counties and more folks than we can talk about tonight,” Chairman Don Smallwood said. “... It’s got some things that need to be done, but overall, it’ll probably be a good project.”

The board’s recommendation will be sent to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for final action at a public hearing set for July 14.

The $700 million Atlanta River Walk would include some 265 single-family homes, 215 townhomes, 600 multifamily units, 242,000 square feet of retail space and 424,000 square feet of office space.

Peachtree City-based ARW Group LLC’s plans also call for a 200-room hotel, 20,000-square-foot convention center, 50,000-square-foot grocery store and 60,000-square-foot theater.

But its centerpiece is construction of “a man-made feature similar to a river and surrounding it with world-class mixed-use development,” ARW Group principal Jorge Duran has said.

The development is planned off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 at Union Church Road. Its property also would abut the Road Atlanta racing course in Braselton.

“We’re going to make sure we do everything we can so that everybody buys into this project, because obviously it belongs to you, after construction is done,” said Otis Aleman, an engineer representing ARW Group.

“We want this to be a good project for you and for the state. If it’s good for the state, it’s good for all of us.”

The project got kudos from Geoff Lee, Road Atlanta president and general manager.

“We’ve very supportive of prudent growth, and we see this as an interesting project, hopefully a good project,” he said.

“We do have some things they’re considering that would help them and us … but in general, we think it’s a very unique concept, a positive concept, and we’re for it.”

The proposal did draw concerns from some residents, with worries including traffic, noise and environmental impacts.

“We’re all for the (development), but let’s do it right,” area resident James Guyton said. “The first thing we need to do before we consider building anything is widening (Ga.) 211.

“To keep the road as it is and then put all that extra on it — that seems to me like putting the cart before the horse.”

Jill Cooper Hilton of Braselton said, “How do we know when the money runs out that we’re not just going to have a bunch of residential area down there? Who’s to say the commercial part of it’s coming?

“That’s the sad part, because money only goes so far and all good things come to an end.”

Hall planning staff is also recommending approval of the project, as long as certain conditions are met. One concern is traffic.

“Staff is recommending that the developer work with Hall County engineering and/or (Georgia Department of Transportation) on determining the road improvements necessary to serve this development,” states a Hall County document.

The potential development also has raised environmental worries.

“There are lakes and additional wetlands shown on various aerials that are not being designated on the concept plan,” according to a Jackson County written response to the project.

And the Atlanta Regional Commission says, “After construction, water quality will be impacted due to polluted stormwater runoff.”

Chris Manganiello, policy director of Georgia River Network, said last week in an email he believes the ARC and Jackson County concerns “are all warranted.”

“Significant impacts to creeks, streams and ponds will need an approved mitigation plan,” he said. “Green infrastructure is a proven way to manage stormwater.”

Also, “if water is the focus of this development, water management in all phases of development — land clearing, construction and post-construction — should protect, enhance and ultimately improve water quality in the Mulberry River.”

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