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Flowery Branch council approves rezoning for planned unit development
Vote allows 98 single-family homes off Lights Ferry Road
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A rezoning of residential land near downtown Flowery Branch opens the property for new homes.

“I’m obviously very pleased with it,” said developer Frank McGowan following Thursday’s vote on the rezoning by council members. “This has become something that I want to do. I’ve been driving by this (land) for many years and thought, ‘Gosh, I should be able to do something with it,’ and so that’s why I’m here.”

The 18.67-acre lot at 5941 Lights Ferry Road was originally zoned residential multifamily in 2002. The plan was to construct 157 town homes on the property, according to John McHenry, director of planning and community development for Flowery Branch.

With Thursday’s vote, the newly rezoned planned unit development is approved for 98 single-family homes.

“So for those 98 lots, what you’re getting is basically five units per acre versus 12 units,” McHenry said at the first public hearing, held Monday.

At both the Monday and Thursday public hearings for the rezoning, residents from the land’s adjacent Tidewater Cove neighborhood expressed approval for developing the land but cautioned against moving too quickly.

“My concern is that Tidewater Cove has a lot of stake in what goes on next to our property,” said resident Tom Fay at Thursday’s hearing. “I would like you to postpone (the vote) for at least 30 days and notify all the homeowners of Tidewater Cove of this meeting, because most of them are unaware of it.

“I, for one, am happy to see this go through and get development,” Fay added later. “But I do have a few questions and I’d like some time to really think about it before you just vote on it and pass it.”

Resident Alan McIntyre, also of Tidewater Cove, agreed with Fay.

“I am pleased to see it happen; very much so,” McIntyre said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for this community. I have some reservations. I don’t want, three years from now, to drive by that subdivision (and have it look like) Edward Scissorhands’ neighborhood.”

Concern was expressed over parking issues; there is a lack of parking spaces in Tidewater Cove, according to residents who spoke. And comments were made about a berm on Tidewater Cove’s property, right by the proposed development.

“My understanding of that berm ... is that wasn’t really created as a berm,” Fay said. “The previous developer, through property negotiations with the council, just temporarily plowed garbage up. It became a big mound, which they’re now calling a berm. So I think the council has a little responsibility here.”

His suggestion was to remove the berm for the possibility of additional parking spaces.

McGowan confirmed he would have architectural control over design of the homes; he also said delaying the vote could jeopardize his closing on the property.

And McHenry said notice had been given to neighboring properties.

“You must put a notification in the newspaper, the legal organ of record, which is The Gainesville Times, which was done,” he said. “And then you must post the signs. I think I posted four signs over there, so we really wanted to get the word out.”

He added letters went out to neighboring properties, and that he had a conversation with the president of Tidewater Cove’s homeowners association.

Councilmen Damon Gibbs and Joe Anglin verbally expressed their approval of the rezoning and proposed development; the rezoning ordinance passed unanimously.

“I think the plan makes a lot of sense to me,” Gibbs said prior to the vote. “I think Mr. McGowan’s done his homework, and I think it meets the needs of our community.

“I’m not going to speak about the berm, because we can’t possibly hold the developer responsible for something off their property,” he added. “So I don’t know if Tidewater Cove wants to contact him directly and try to work something out, I think that’s between them. I don’t think that’s for us to deal with.”

Construction on homes isn’t expected to begin until 2015.

The developer said “it’s too soon to tell” on exact home specifications.

“We just have to see where the market is,” McGowan said. “A project I did in Decatur years ago, we (started with) $129,900 ... the very first house in there, people said, ‘Well, could you add this? Could you add that?’ We started running $158,000 and we never looked back.”

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