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Flowery Branch gives first OK to Sterling on the Lake expansion
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FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch City Council gave its first OK Wednesday to a nearly 200-home expansion of the already massive Sterling on the Lake development off Spout Springs Road.

The council still is trying to work out, however, details on another request by the builder, San Diego-based Newland Communities, concerning commercial development of four acres at the entrance off Spout Springs Road.

Council members voted to OK commercial development at the site but with the condition that nothing could be built within 20 feet from the property line and 50 feet from the corner of the property at Spout Springs Road and Lake Sterling Boulevard.

"A lot of comments we’ve been hearing is that (residents) don’t want to lose that grand entrance to Sterling on the Lake," said Councilman Chris Fetterman, a resident of the neighborhood, who introduced the condition.

Patrick Clark, vice president and general manager for Newland’s Eastern region, said he hadn’t seen the condition before Wednesday morning.

"I’m not 100 percent sure of the impact," he said. "I would suggest that it’s severe and it would probably greatly compromise the marketability of that commercial site. It’s a relatively small (site) as it is."

Council members hesitated when a vote was called on the matter.

"I understand why you want that (condition), but the other side of the coin is (Newland) is trying to make (the site) productive," Councilwoman Mary Jones said to Fetterman.

"And if he doesn’t have a little bit of negotiation or wiggle room, you probably are going to lose something you really want."

Fetterman said he believed the council’s decision would "establish a benchmark" from which Newland and the city can reach an agreement before the council casts a second and final vote at its Nov. 19 meeting, set to start at 9:30 a.m.

"That’s fine," Jones said.

Councilman Allen Bryans Sr. abstained from the vote, saying he believed the council should have voted on the amendment and Newland’s commercial request separately.

One Sterling resident, Chris Hartnett, said he doesn’t favor any commercial development on the site.

"Newland has done some great things, but I think they have gone a little too far (with the commercial request)," he told the council. "We’ve got enough shopping centers to go to at either end of Spout Springs (Road)."

The council did give its first unanimous OK to
Newland’s request to rezone and annex two tracts totaling about 105 acres for the additional homes.

Sterling on the Lake, originally proposed for 2,300 homes under a different developer, now has 550 homes and the OK to build up to 1,788 homes on its 900 acres.

If council approves the latest plans on Nov. 19, Newland could build 1,964 homes on nearly 1,000 acres.

In other business, the council gave final approval to the rezoning and annexation of 2.83 acres at 4690 Holland Dam Road.

The applicant, Robert Bozzone of Flowery Branch, has indicated interest in developing a hotel there, Planning Director James Riker said.

The site is slightly larger than the Hampton Inn & Suites property next to it, he has said.

The 84-unit, five-story Hampton Inn is now set to open in early December, hotel owner Yogesh Patel said earlier this week.

Bozzone also got the council’s final nod on a rezoning and annexation of 5.67 acres at 4847 Old Orr Road, behind a gas station off Hog Mountain Road.

The site now has a highway business designation, with plans for 60,000 square feet of office space and a 70,000-square-foot self-storage building.

Also, the council voted to enter into an agreement with Hall County, Clermont, Gainesville, Gillsville, Lula, Oakwood and Braselton governments concerning a proposed extension of the proposed 1-cent sales program that will go before voters in March.