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Raucous crowd boos Buford warehouse vote
Nearly 400,000 square feet of distribution facility space is being proposed on some 34 acres off McEver Road in South Hall.

City of Buford security staff had to turn off the microphone for public commenters after a series of boos and derogatory remarks about a controversial vote on a warehouse development on McEver Road.

The Buford Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the warehouse project Monday Aug. 2 after public comments and a brief board discussion that the audience found frustrating, causing people to speak out of turn and yell from the bleachers of Buford Arena.

The development, proposed by Chicago-based real estate management firm, CA Ventures, required the city of Buford to annex and rezone a 34-acre tract at 6533 McEver Road — which was previously in unincorporated Hall County — in order to rezone its planned use from agricultural-residential to light industrial. The development would include two warehouse buildings totaling nearly 400,000 square feet. 

Several people spoke against the development, and the crowd was full of opponents, many of whom reside in Hall County or Flowery Branch. One of the sticking points for residents throughout this process is that Buford is making a decision that could affect many residents of other jurisdictions in residential areas along and near McEver Road. 

Many speakers, including Hall County Commissioner Kathy Cooper, said the development was of a significantly more intense use than the current zoning and nearby residential properties. CA Ventures Senior Vice President Steve Rowley argued there is adjacent commercial zoning to the development as well as residential, and there are other storage facilities and commercial and industrial uses along McEver Road. 

Stanton Porter, an attorney representing Hall County residents near the development, said the project violates the intent of the city and county codes and that residents may take further legal action to appeal the decision. The commission and planning and zoning staff had not provided satisfactory reasoning for their decision, Porter said. The decision read like one that favored tax dollars over the desire of residents, Porter said.

“It seemed that the city made no consideration of its own land use plan or any of the guidelines that are in place,” Porter said.

Buford was the third local government that saw this application, after the developer first proposed it to Hall County, whose planning commission recommended denial in October 2020. The developer withdrew plans before it could be voted on by the Hall County Board of Commissioners. 

Then, the Flowery Branch City Council also denied the application last December, and many members of the audience stood up at one point during Monday’s meeting to identify themselves as Flowery Branch residents opposing the development.

Hall County tried to block the application from reaching Buford’s Board of Commissioners when it made a formal objection to the annexation and rezoning. The case went to a state arbitration panel, who ruled in Buford’s favor in June. You can find a full timeline of the project here

Rowley said they would spend more than $1 million in road improvements as part of the project. Road improvements would include widening McEver from 26 feet to 52 feet along the property, adding a deceleration lane and left turn lane into the project and increasing the visibility for a curve along the road from 55 feet to about 965 feet by cutting down trees on the development’s side of the road. 

The project would include a 100-foot buffer on sides adjacent to residential property. 

Commission Chairman Phillip Beard said after the meeting that he lives in an area with industrial properties nearby and hasn’t had a problem. A big residential development on the same property could cause more traffic than the proposed warehouse facility, Beard said. 

The project would bring additional tax revenue to the city to support Buford’s schools without adding more students, he said. 

“(Buford) is not a small town anymore, and it takes a lot to operate our schools and keep the quality that we have,” Beard said. “To do that we have to continue to grow.”