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Developer wants to build hotel closer to Flat Creek than allowed
Proposal off Browns Bridge Road goes before Gainesville planning board Tuesday
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A 14,000-square-foot hotel could be built on property just south of Fairfield Inn and Suites and Hilton Garden Inn, which are behind a row of restaurants off Browns Bridge Road, west of Pearl Nix Parkway.

Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board

What: Variance request for proposed hotel

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway

A new four- to six-story hotel is being proposed in Gainesville, but its fate may hinge on whether the developer can build it closer to the long-troubled Flat Creek than allowed.

Aneesh Patel is set to ask the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday to reduce the required distance between the hotel and Flat Creek from 75 feet to 25 feet.

The lot size is 1.8 acres, and the hotel would back up to 435 feet of Flat Creek, according to city documents.

“The applicant is basing (its request) on the shape of the property and the location of the existing stormwater facility that serves the entire commercial (area),” the agenda states.

The 14,000-square-foot hotel would be built on property just south of Fairfield Inn and Suites and Hilton Garden Inn, which are behind a row of restaurants off Browns Bridge Road, west of Pearl Nix Parkway.

Otherwise, the documents don’t state what brand of hotel would be built or the number of rooms.

Reached by phone, Patel said he preferred not to comment on the proposal before it’s heard by the planning board, which is set to meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway.

City officials are recommending approval on the condition that the developer provide “a detailed landscape mitigation plan for the disturbed area within the 75-foot stream buffer,” documents state.

Meanwhile, the proposal has drawn criticism from Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, an environmental watchdog group.

Reducing the required distance to 25 feet “could pose a risk to the already imperiled Flat Creek,” said Jason Ulseth, who heads the group.

The point to the 75-foot buffer is “to help protect (streams) from the negative impacts of development,” he said.

Ulseth added: “The city’s planning staff has recommended approval without requiring the developer to pursue meaningful mitigation options that would offset the negative environmental impacts of granting this variance.

“Most of what (the city) recommended is already required by state or local laws anyways. If this variance is granted, the developer must be required to go above and beyond the status quo and implement significant measures that will replace the lost benefits and functions that the stream buffer provides.”

As a largely urban and industrial waterway that flows from downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier, Flat Creek has long had issues, such as bacterial contamination and heavy rains pushing garbage into its waters.

Area governments have taken steps in recent years to improve the creek’s water quality, including installation of a “litter trap” off Old Flowery Branch Road.

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