Come Nov. 10, an acre of land in the Reunion subdivision will have special meaning to 420 households.
The Reunion residents stopped a proposed development by buying the acre through donations and fundraising efforts. They raised $113,000 amongst themselves then sold clothes, baked bread and cold called local businesses to raise an additional $14,000.
The residents close on the acre of land for $120,000 on Nov. 10. Any additional money is expected to be returned to residents who donated.
The fundraising effort culminated at a Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators football gameday celebration in the neighborhood on Saturday. Organizer Tom McDermott told dozens of Reunion residents and friends at halftime that they were guaranteed to close on land that would prevent expansion. Reunion Golf Club, who owns the small piece of land, brought down the price by $40,000 from $160,000 after seeing the massive community support, McDermott said.
The effort to stop the subdivision’s developer, Pulte Group, from expanding started this summer when hundreds of residents attended a July 22 meeting with Pulte representatives to voice their opposition to the expansion. Originally, Pulte wanted to add 144 more homes on 57 acres at 7099 Spout Springs Road, attached with a cut-through on Grand Reunion Drive.
Most residents didn’t oppose Pulte building more homes on Spout Springs, but they did not want the development to connect to their existing subdivision and use Reunion’s amenities. The expansion would have caused traffic issues, overcrowding and, more than anything, residents said they were happy with Reunion the way it is.
They quickly organized a Facebook group called, “Reunion Residents AGAINST expansion!” which boasts 736 members from the 800-home subdivision. The group has been used to share information about the proposed development, and, over time, residents used it to share unique ways they wanted to help raise money to buy the small plot of land where Pulte wanted to create a connecting road.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved the development in September, but set a condition that would block Pulte from connecting with Reunion. But residents saw this as only a temporary solution, because, if Pulte bought the land in question, they could come back before the board and ask for the cut-through road on the acre of land again. Brian Rochester, representing Pulte, said last week they planned on building the development without the connecting road.
Some community organizers, including McDermott, helped create Reunion Preserve, LLC, a nonprofit association that neighbors could donate to, to buy the land. Their original goal was $160,000 by Nov. 13, before the golf course brought down the price.
Casey Blake, who hosted the football event said she raised nearly $3,000 by charging people a fee for drinks and food. More than 100 people RSVPed online, Blake said.
“I feel blessed to live in a neighborhood where people come together like this,” she said. “It’s been fun.”
The event included 80 pounds of barbeque for sandwiches, two beer kegs and three outdoor televisions to watch the game.
Staci Lastinger has spent more than 40 hours over the past three weeks baking banana bread for her neighbors. She’s made nearly 100 loaves of bread and raised more than $500. Her house would have been next-door to the cut-through road to Pulte’s expansion, she said.
Lastinger also helped set up a silent auction at the event with items from 10 local businesses including the Oakwood Bait and Tackle Shop, Matthew’s and Co. Salon and Windsong Sailing Academy.
“We want to keep this utopia the way that it is,” Lastinger said. “This is really special to us, so I felt called to step up.”
One resident created Reunion-brand sweatshirts and other clothing, which helped raise a few thousand dollars, McDermott said. A high schooler offered to customize golf carts, one woman sold wine, and a few people set up booths selling baked goods and raffling off items at the subdivision’s annual fall festival, which raised about $7,000 for the cause.
Many residents showed their passion with red ribbons tied to the front of their homes, which they received in return for donating to Reunion Preserve. Residents described their neighborhood as a special place with a special bond.
“When you live in Reunion, people don’t usually move (out) they just move to another house (in Reunion),” Heather Whitaker said.
When McDermott told the crowd at halftime of the game that they had a deal with the golf course, one lady yelled she was going to cry, she was so overwhelmed.