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Hall County loses warehouse annexation dispute with Buford
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Hall County Attorney Van Stephens - photo by Jeff Gill

Update, June 8: A statewide arbitration panel sided with Buford in an annexation dispute with Hall County that involved a proposed warehouse development off McEver Road in South Hall.

“The existing and pending developments both north and south of this parcel are both commercial and industrial in nature, as well as high-density residential,” the panel wrote in its 9-page decision issued Monday, June 8.

“This annexation request and rezoning to (light industrial) by Buford appears consistent with a higher level of development density within a mile of proposed project.”

Buford’s lawyer, Gregory D. Jay, said in an emailed statement, “The city is pleased with the panel’s decision. We believe the use is appropriate in light of existing land uses in the McEver Road corridor and zoning of adjacent properties. This development will provide needed safety and infrastructure improvements and expand the county’s tax digest.”

Hall spokeswoman Katie Crumley said, “I cannot comment further as any further action on behalf of the county could lead to potential litigation.”

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs says on its website that the panel’s decision is “binding on all parties, including the property owner; however, the decision may be appealed to a court of law.”

Jay said that CA-Ventures proposal, which calls for 400,000 square feet of warehouse space on 34 acres at 6533 McEver Road, could go before the Buford Planning Commission in July and the Buford City Commission in August.

Previous story: A decision may now come Monday, June 7, on whether a proposed 400,000 square feet of warehouse space off McEver Road in South Hall can move forward in Buford.

“We’re close, but we want to drive the property,” said Bob Weatherford, a member of the five-member, independent arbitration panel appointed to hear the dispute between Hall County and Buford.

The panel, made of members from throughout the state, spent Wednesday, June 2, hearing from both governments on CA-Ventures’ requests for annexation of 34 acres at 6533 McEver Road and rezoning to allow the industrial development.

Weatherford said they had hoped for a ruling by Friday, June 4.

“No ruling yet,” Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said in an email Friday. “Word is that it may be Monday.”

The Wednesday hearing was lengthy, set up like a trial with witnesses and lawyers presenting opening and closing arguments.

“The city of Buford is coming in and saying ‘We must put two great big warehouses in the middle of a residential area,’” Hall County Attorney Van Stephens told the panel. “This is exactly the reason that we have an annexation dispute resolution process. … At some point, there’s got to be a reason why an annexation request like this does not work, and this is it.”

Gregory Jay, who represents Buford, said he believes the issue needs to be looked at “from a market standpoint.”

Government land-use plans “are aspirational, but if you look at the trend and where it’s heading … this (type of development) is what’s trending up this road.”

CA-Ventures’ proposal has drawn huge opposition from residents since it first was proposed last year in unincorporated Hall County. Also, from the outset, Hall County planning staff recommended denial of the project.

Going from agricultural-residential — as the property is currently zoned — to light industrial “would permit significantly more intense uses on that property, as far as development and traffic,” Hall Planning Director Sarah McQuade told the panel.

The project was withdrawn in Hall County in November 2020 “because we didn’t think we would win,” said Steve Rowley, a CA-Ventures vice president who also testified on Wednesday.

He also defended the $50 million development, saying it would bring at least two major benefits to the area — road fixes that would improve safety on the curvy two-lane road and a boon in tax revenues for Hall County.

CA-Ventures later sought the development in Flowery Branch, where it was denied in December 2020.

The project then went before Buford, where it got a warmer reception. Buford planning board Chairman Robert Perkins said after a meeting on the development that even though McEver Road “doesn’t carry the name Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, it is part of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.”

Hall County quickly responded to the application going before Buford by filing formal objections, stopping the process in its tracks.