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Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board denies drive-thru restaurant again
Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board member Jane Fleming speaks in opposition of the proposed rezoning of land along Thomposon Bridge Road at Virginia Circle.

The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday once again recommended a rezoning be denied for the proposed development of a drive-thru restaurant and small retail outlet at the intersection of Thompson Bridge Road and Virginia Circle.

The board had initially denied the request in November.

Board members George Hokayem and Doyle Johnson voted in support of the development Tuesday. The City Council will take up the matter next month.

David Johnson, a local cardiovascular doctor, is asking the city to rezone three properties, two of which have homes on the lots, at the intersection from residential development to neighborhood business.

Indications have been given that the drive-thru is likely to be a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, with representatives for the developer saying the prospective business does most of its sales in the morning hours.

While recent changes to the development proposal include additional landscaping buffers, and allows for entrance-only access off Virginia Circle, city planning staff still recommended denying the rezoning request out of concerns it is “inconsistent” with the city’s comprehensive plan and future development map.

Several area residents spoke at the board meeting against the proposed development, with traffic, public safety and quality-of-life issues topping their list of concerns.

Residents are particularly worried about the impact the development could have on adjacent Roper Park.

Linda Roseberry warned the board that approving the rezoning would be a slippery slope to other commercial development in and around neighborhoods along Thompson Bridge.

John Fuller agreed, saying it would set a bad precedent to approve the development and forever alter the character of the neighborhood.

Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam, who represents David Johnson, said commercial development would come to the property fronting Thompson Bridge one way or another, but making it a worthwhile development requires using a property that backs into the neighborhood.

“Something is going to be built there,” he added. “From a land planning standpoint and a building standpoint, it dictates that something else be done with the property.”

Gilliam said Roper Park is not as highly used as initial projections indicated, citing revised statistics from the city’s parks and recreation department that report the park is used by about 12,000 people each year.

Board member Jane Fleming disputed those figures, however. She said there are many events with large gatherings not recorded by the city.

Fleming said she lives in the area and understands residents’ concerns.

“I sympathize with the people around it in that (the plan) is a little invasive,” she added.

Board member Eddie Martin said while he’s in favor of developing the Thompson Bridge corridor for commercial business, it should be done without negatively impacting area residents.

“I’m against encroaching back into the residential neighborhoods on both sides of Thompson Bridge,” he added.

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