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Georgia Supreme Court could hear appeal of controversial Buford warehouse annexation
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Hall County residents gather outside Buford Arena Tuesday, July 20, 2021, following the Buford Planning Commission's approval of a controversial warehouse proposal along McEver Road. The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in April. - photo by Scott Rogers

A case against a controversial annexation and rezoning for a warehouse development in Buford could be heard by the Georgia Supreme Court this spring, after getting hung up by a procedural issue. 

Residents and homeowners associations near a planned warehouse off McEver Road in South Hall, initially filed suit against the city of Buford and its Board of Commissioners at the end of August. Buford responded by filing a motion to dismiss the petition, arguing that it had not received a notice to appeal in time. The Superior Court of Gwinnett County granted the motion to dismiss on Nov. 30.

Claimants filed a discretionary application for appeal to the Supreme Court on Dec. 29 to dispute the Gwinnett court’s decision, arguing that the dismissal was granted prematurely. 

The case could be heard by the Supreme Court in April, according to court records, but discretionary appeals are not appeals by right, meaning the court can choose whether or not to take the appeal. Attorney for the city of Buford, Gregory Jay, said both parties will likely know whether or not the Supreme Court will hear the case by the end of January. 

Jay declined to comment further on the case, saying he does not typically comment on pending litigation. 

The case would be over if the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, said Stanton Porter, who represents the claimants.

The Supreme Court would likely not be ruling on the land use dispute that neighbors are concerned with, rather it would be ruling on the procedural issue at hand. Court records state the appeal could be heard in April, though no date is set. 

The annexation dispute has a long history. 

On Aug. 3, the Buford Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a warehouse facility from Chicago-based firm CA Ventures that would include two buildings, totaling nearly 400,000 square feet on a 34-acre lot at 6533 McEver Road. The land on McEver Road is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and bordered on two sides with commercial zonings.

Previously, the applicant was denied by both the Hall County Planning Commission and Flowery Branch City Council for the same warehouse facility. The applicant then attempted to annex the land into Buford, and Hall County objected in March 2020. But a statewide arbitration panel sided with Buford in June after Hall County tried to stop the annexation. 

Find a full timeline of events here.

Buford’s approval of the annexation and rezoning drew huge opposition from neighbors living in Buford, Hall County and Flowery Branch, who booed and yelled at commissioners at a contentious August meeting. Commission Chairman Phillip Beard said at the time that the development would bring in tax money without adding students to the school system.