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Complex could be Halls first high-density housing
Residents concerned about traffic, safety, property value
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The proposed Riverbrook Village apartment complex could be unincorporated Hall County’s first high-density residential area if the Hall County Board of Commissioners approves the development company’s controversial zoning application this evening.

Riverbrook Village Development Partners LLC of Murrayville is asking to rezone about 83 acres northwest of the intersection of Price and Thompson Bridge roads to allow for mixed residential and commercial use. The developers, Steve McKibbon and Robbie Robison, are planning a retail shopping center on 60 acres and an apartment unit with hundreds of units.

Many residents have said they don’t oppose the project, just the apartment complex. Public hearings on the application have been emotionally charged, and residents against it are likely to speak at tonight’s meeting.

“We wouldn’t have built our home if we (would) have known the town homes had changed,” said Hart Payne, whose house would share a border with the 22-acre multifamily development. “The density frightens us.”

The economic development project was stalled during the financial crisis, and the residential portion was changed from 45 town homes to a 288-apartment complex. The county’s comprehensive plan allows two units per acre when the facility is connected with city water and sewer, as the apartment complex will be, said Srikanth Yamala, county director of planning.

The developers made some concessions to residents late last year and dropped the units to 240, which would equal about nine units per acre.

The Hall County Planning Commission approved the application with several conditions by a vote of 4-1 on Nov. 19.

The comprehensive plan hasn’t been updated since 2005 and is more of a set of guidelines, Yamala said. Under city rules or guidelines, developments with both water and sewer are allowed to have 12 units per acre, he said.

The county doesn’t have any high-density or moderate-density residential locations, Yamala said.

Robison said Monday that the company has made changes to the application, but he would not disclose details.

Other concerns that residents have publicly raised include traffic congestion, driver safety, lower property values for nearby homeowners and a high rate of apartment unit turnover.

“We just feel like it’s going to be a traffic nightmare,” said Jeremy Griffey, vice president of the Walnut Grove Homeowners Association.

Griffey, who said he is not against the project, spoke at the board’s work session Tuesday as he delivered two petitions with a combined 450 signatures opposing the apartment complex. Commissioners, including Chairman Richard Mecum and Commissioner Billy Powell, have been meeting with and hearing from constituents on the proposal.

Powell said he’s met with representatives of the Walnut Grove Homeowners Association and Lanier Village Estates, a retirement village near the intersection, and between 20 and 25 individuals have contacted him. Mecum also has met with the representatives and said he has safety concerns about some elderly drivers navigating the intersection. He said he will be looking for the developers to address exits and entrances on Thompson Bridge Road, water and sewer capacity and traffic.

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