The fact that a once-wooded swath of McEver Road property is being developed for 1 million square feet of industrial space is no surprise to Atlanta businessman Price Weaver.
South Hall “is just a natural fit for most of these (industrial) users who have been in Gwinnett County for a long time,” he said. “I think you’ll see it continue (with) additional sites — not necessarily on McEver Road, but in the area. I think you’ll see it grow all the way to Gainesville over time.”
Weaver is senior vice president and principal with Colliers International, a global brokerage firm involved with the 97-acre Buford Commerce Park, which sits just north of Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347.
His prediction may not sit well with residents in the McEver Road area, which has become a hotbed of industrial development. Not far from McEver are mammoth industrial parks, including one anchored by an Amazon delivery station.
Residents “are very concerned about the industrial nature of many of the new projects and not being consulted on the front end before they reach the hearing stage,” said Farley Barge, co-founder of the nearby addiction recovery center Lightway Recovery on McEver Road.
“Many of the projects don't meet their own city or county comprehensive plans,” he said. “When big corporate dollars come knocking, they scramble to accommodate them … forgetting their own constituents who place faith in them to be good stewards for the community through the election process.”
Barge became an outspoken opponent when Chicago-based CA-Ventures proposed building two warehouses totaling 400,000 square feet at 6533 McEver Road, next to his Christian-based center.
He and other residents said they were concerned about industry being out of place in a residential area, but mainly they said they were concerned about safety, saying that cars barrel down the curvy two-lane road. Adding 18-wheelers to the mix would only make conditions worse, they say.
George Villaverde moved to Flowery Branch 3.5 years ago and has noticed big changes in just that time — largely industrial, but also residential, as subdivisions are being built up McEver into Oakwood.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the New York native. “I moved to the small town, and I’m terrified it’s turning into something else now.”
So far, residents have prevailed in the CA-Ventures proposal. The developer first took its application to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, later withdrawing it in the wake of opposition. Flowery Branch City Council later rejected the proposal.
The developer now is seeking to annex into Buford, not from McEver Road, but through a neighborhood off Atlanta Highway that backs up to the 34-acre site.
But the project is in limbo as Hall County has objected to the Buford annexation.
Hall County also has said the area around CA-Ventures’ proposal has a residential feel and that if the development was approved, “it would also impose a significant increase in burden on the county’s infrastructure, primarily McEver Road.”
Also, Hall said, annexation by Buford would create an unincorporated island, an area surrounded on all sides by property that is in city limits.
Buford officials weren’t dismissing CA-Ventures’ proposal at a March 9 public hearing. As Barge spoke against it to the board, 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.
And speaking after the meeting, Perkins said that even though McEver Road “doesn’t carry the name Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, it is part of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.”