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Gainesville planning board denies Thompson Bridge-Virginia Circle drive-thru
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• The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for First Baptist Church of Gainesville to install an electronic message board sign, which can advertise services and special events, no bigger than 20 square feet per side.

Representatives from the Green Street house of worship, however, said they wanted the sign to be closer to 30 square feet in order to better fit with the current size of the existing monument sign.

But the planning board voted 3-2 to keep the 20-square-foot limit in place, as recommended by city planning staff.

• Finally, the planning board unanimously recommended approval of an amendment to a planned-unit-development zoning to allow for an 80,000- to 90,000-square-foot, 200-bed assisted living facility to be constructed at 2601 Thompson Bridge Road.

The proposed development is near the shores of Lake Lanier and adjacent to several multifamily dwellings, including the Edgewater on Lanier apartments and Hidden Cove condominiums.

Developers said they could break ground early next year on the facility, which will include 20 attached independent living units.

City Council will vote on the matter when it meets Dec. 2.

Joshua Silavent

BY JOSHUA SILAVENT

jsilavent@gainesvilletimes.com

Heeding concerns from area residents and city planning staff, the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday unanimously recommended denying a rezoning request needed for the development of a drive-thru restaurant and small retail outlet at the intersection of Thompson Bridge Road and Virginia Circle.

City Council will vote on the matter when it meets Dec. 2.

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.

The development would have access from both Thompson Bridge and Virginia Circle, a prospect that worried city officials and residents.

Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam, who represents Johnson, said his client purchased the property as an investment and that his proposal complements other small commercial properties in the area.

Gilliam said the proposed entrance off Virginia Circle, a residential area adjacent to Roper Park, would mirror a secondary entrance to a nearby BB&T Bank.

Gilliam also said the Thompson Bridge corridor will be a hotbed for future commercial development and that the restaurant/retail proposal fits this mold. 

But city planning staff said the proposed development would have a far greater impact on the residential community than other commercial properties nearby.

“The planning staff believes the request as presented is not consistent with the comprehensive plan, as the rear lot is shown to remain as residential or for light office uses,” states a report to the planning board.

Residents also objected to the development at Tuesday’s meeting, saying the traffic impact on the neighborhood, particularly with as busy as Roper Park can be with events and ball games, is too significant to ignore.

Emilie Cook, who lives behind BB&T Bank on the opposite side of the park from the proposed development, said a restaurant and retail outlet would generate a nuisance night and day.

She asked the planning board to consider where the theoretical line in the sand exists separating commercial businesses from residential homes.

Based on the proposed size of the drive-thru restaurant — 1,800 square feet — Starbucks is a possible candidate to move in if City Council decides to approve the development.

Gilliam said that without all three lots being rezoned, including the entrance proposed off Virginia Circle, his client’s options are then limited and his property value plummets.

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