Officials from Hall County and the city of Gainesville have reached an agreement that will allow for the development of a 199-lot upscale subdivision off Ahaluna Drive in Gainesville, near the shores of Lake Lanier.
Hall County had objected to the proposed development based on its assertion that the city’s plans to annex about 70 acres would create an “island” property where duplicate services are delivered.
County officials also objected to the fact they would have to continue maintaining Ahaluna Drive.
The city has now agreed to handle maintenance of Ahaluna Drive, which accesses the proposed subdivision from Dawsonville Highway, after the developer agreed to annex additional parcels along the road into the city.
In exchange, the county has agreed to drop its objection.
County and city officials hashed out the deal, which will allow City Council to go ahead and approve the annexation needed for the development to proceed when it meets tonight, during a hearing Monday in Hall County Superior Court.
County and city officials had tried negotiating a compromise on the controversial development over the course of several weeks in October to no avail.
It appeared the dispute was headed for arbitration handled by the state Department of Community Affairs, but that hearing was denied because neither the county nor city had informed the DCA of the dispute within the allotted time frame.
County and city officials disagreed on whose responsibility it was to notify the DCA that an objection had been filed to the proposed development annexation.
As a last resort, the county sought a temporary restraining order Monday blocking the city from moving forward on the annexation.
After hearing remarks from County Attorney Bill Blalock, Judge C. Andrew Fuller excused himself for another proceeding and asked officials to find a resolution to the matter.
And that’s what officials did, saying it sometimes takes getting into court to find the political will for compromise.
“I’m glad we reached an amicable solution without a lengthy and costly court battle,” said Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs.
“While I know that there are some residents that are unhappy with the density in the area, the city has addressed the county’s concerns about the infrastructure,” said Commissioner Craig Lutz.
Gainesville Councilman Sam Couvillon credited County Administrator Randy Knighton and City Manager Kip Padgett for bringing the two sides together and finding a solution.
Residents in the area who have opposed certain aspects of the development said they were surprised by the last-minute deal and are now rethinking how to proceed with their objections, including whether to take the city to court.
Residents are concerned that the county has forsaken its opposition to the creation of an island by leaving the homes on Watauga Drive, and a few more along Ahaluna Drive, sandwiched between the city limits and the lakeshore.
“The fact that the county is willing to let that particular objection go by the wayside is, again, very disappointing,” said Gene Korzeniewski, a resident who lives at the entrance of Watauga Drive.
In its proposal, the developer has carved out a small plot of land so it technically doesn’t run afoul of the island scenario.
County officials said state law is on the city’s side and that they have little recourse to address this concern.
Korzeniewski said the timing of the deal is unfair to residents who oppose the development, and that it puts the opposition at a “real disadvantage.”
Residents of Watauga Drive will likely have to decide whether to remain in the county or also be annexed into the city.