GAINESVILLE — The president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce told Gainesville’s Planning and Appeals Board the city needs more industrial park space because more industrial park space means more jobs for the community.
“If you build it, they will come,” promised Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Dunlap spoke in favor of a zoning request made by the City of Gainesville Tuesday to rezone about 231 acres of property off New Harvest Road — 20 of which are currently outside the city limits — to make room for an industrial park subdivision. Shortly afterward, the planning and appeals board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning.
“It would be a great economic success,” Dunlap said.
Yet a developer of a nearby subdivision says the opposite is true for him. No one wants to buy a house that has a 30-foot industrial building towering over it, he said.
“We’ve paid for this property for 20 years,” said Realtor Blane Cochran, whose father Lawrence Cochran develops the South Oak subdivision. "(An industrial park) is oging to ruin it for any plans we had for it."
The Cochrans own about 24 acres of undeveloped property adjacent to the land where the city has proposed to develop an industrial park. Lawrence Cochran offered to sell the property to the city, which he says will be useless for residential development if the industrial subdivision is approved by the City Council, but Gainesville officials had no interest in the property, he said.
Cochran told the Planning and Appeals Board that he asked the city for an easement and rezoning to allow heavy industrial access to his property and to be annexed into the city to connect his property to city sewer. The Cochrans spoke in opposition to the city’s request, as did two other concerned residents, who said the proposed industrial park could have a negative effect on their well-being and could be hazardous to the nearby Walnut Creek.
Kip Padgett, Gainesville’s assistant city manager who presented the city’s request to the board, told the board that the park would be good for the community as well as the environment. Padgett promised there would be stringent rules regarding stream buffers at the industrial park, and the park would stimulate economic development and help with the city’s tax base. Padgett told the board that city staff has identified a potential developer for the property.
The board leaned toward Padgett, voting 4-0 to recommend approval of the city’s request to annex 20 acres, currently owned by Hall County, and rezone it and another 210-acre city-owned tract of land from residential zoning to heavy industrial.
Board member Floyd Baldwin, president of Industrial Properties Group Inc., withdrew himself from the discussion because he had a conflict of interest.
After the meeting, board chairman Dean Dadisman said he did not know why exactly Baldwin had recused himself.
“He evidently has some financial interest somewhere in that area,” Dadisman said. “He didn’t tell me exactly what it was.”
Baldwin did not comment on whether or not he plans to buy any of the property in question, but said he recused himself because he might potentially do business in the park if it is rezoned to heavy industrial.
The city originally purchased the 210.73 acres facing New Harvest Road to use as a spray field for wastewater. That was never done, said City Manager Bryan Shuler.
“Most times, real estate is bought for a specific purpose, and it’s developed in that way,” Shuler said. “Occasionally, land is bought ... conditions change, and new opportunities present themselves.
“I guess this particular project would fall in that category.”
City officials have said that the city needs more industrial property.
“Our available inventory of industrial property is dwindling,” Shuler said. “We’ve sold almost every piece of property in all of the city industrial parks.”
The rezoning to heavy industrial would make more property in the city available for industrial development, “so when industry is looking at our community, there are sites to show them,” Shuler said.
The Cochrans plan to present their case to the Gainesville City Council in March when the issue goes before council members for approval.
develops the South Oak subdivision. “(An industrial park) is going to ruin it for any plans we had for it.”