A proposed warehouse off McEver Road has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from area residents and Hall County government.
“Having a facility like this that operates 24/7 with 73 trucks … is going to be a huge detriment,” said Farley Barge, co-founder of an addiction recovery center for women near the site, to the Buford Planning Commission on Tuesday, March 9.
CA-Ventures, a Chicago-based real estate management firm, is seeking to annex 34 acres into Buford for 396,900 square feet of warehouse space at 6533 McEver Road.
But a formal objection from Hall County forced the commission to put the brakes on the request.
Based on the number of residents who showed up, opposition is not fading on the issue, even as planning board Chairman Robert Perkins challenged Barge on the applicant’s rights.
“Just because you’re here doesn’t mean that they can’t request to be brought into the city of Buford,” Perkins said.
“I understand that, but it also doesn’t mean that you have to do it,” Barge said.
CA-Ventures, which also is seeking rezoning to light industrial from agricultural-residential for the project, initially sought the development in unincorporated Hall.
The company withdrew the proposal in November 2020 “because of substantial opposition,” Hall County Attorney Van Stephens said Monday, March 8, before the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to file the objection.
There is virtually no light industrial in the immediate surrounding area, according to Stephens, who added the proposal and annexation would “result in a zoning and use that is more intense than (what’s in) our future land-use plan. It would also impose a significant increase in burden on the county’s infrastructure, primarily McEver Road.”
After the withdrawal in Hall, the proposal was denied by the Flowery Branch City Council in December. More than a dozen residents told officials they were concerned about traffic, safety and the effects on nearby residential neighborhoods.
Opposition continues to simmer on social media and through a petition circulating online. Tuesday night, the petition had more than 500 signatures.
“There are numerous appropriate places to build M-1 facilities without ruining the infrastructure, landscape, property values, already tenuous safety, and residential climate of this area,” says the online petition.
M-1 is a zoning category that would include warehouses.
Barge said in a recent interview with The Times he didn’t understand why CA-Ventures “would continue to pursue this project with overwhelming opposition that they’ve received.”
Hall’s objection carries more than symbolic weight.
According to Stephens, “there’s a statutory process that involves arbitration of the issues. We would go through this annexation dispute resolution process before anything happens in the city of Buford. This will put the annexation process on hold until we determine these issues.”
The process could “take a few months,” he said.
But CA-Ventures’ proposal is getting a favorable reaction in Buford.
Suwanee-based engineering firm Dyer & Associates recommends approval based on several conditions, including limitations on outdoor lighting.
The report does say, however, that development plans show “improper industrial driveway locations and site distance issues at McEver Road.”
“The approval of this annexation and rezoning does not relieve the applicant from required traffic engineering standards and will be reviewed at the submittal of … engineering plans,” the report states.
Perkins and board member Homer Whiting, speaking after the meeting, suggested that requirement as a positive in the plan, noting specifically that a bend in the road at the proposed site could be straightened as a result of the project.
“That curve will be better,” Whiting said.
Speaking to Barge during the meeting, Perkins said the planning board is accustomed to opposition even as progress marches on in the city.
“The city of Buford is a total changed area, and I’ve been here 74 years,” Perkins said. “You can’t stop people from asking to come here. We don’t hang a flag out saying ‘Please come to Buford.’”