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Gainesville City Council votes on townhomes that could replace abandoned church building
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A 70-townhome development is proposed south of Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville. The project calls for tearing down an abandoned church. - photo by Jeff Gill

Update, April 19: The Gainesville City Council unanimously approved Tuesday 70 townhomes at 2920 Florence Drive. McKinley Homes US was granted special use within office-institutional zoning for the 7.74-acre complex, which will feature a total of 13 buildings with two-story townhomes, each with a two-car garage. The units will range from 1,603 to 1,863 square feet.


Update: The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board unanimously recommended approval Tuesday for 70 townhomes at 2920 Florence Drive. The development will go before the City Council for final action March 1. 

McKinley Homes US LLC is requesting special use within office-institutional zoning for the 7.74-acre complex, which will feature a total of 13 buildings with two-story townhomes, each with a two-car garage. The units will range from 1,603 to 1,863 square feet. 

Amenities would include a pocket park, children’s play area, dog walk and community mailbox.

The townhomes would replace an abandoned church that has been there for more than 40 years. The surrounding area includes residential townhomes, condominiums, the Free Chapel Worship Center and the Hall County Government and Sheriff’s office. 

Several residents from nearby communities spoke out against the development. 

“It’s not that we're inherently opposed to any new townhomes, but 70 is just a shockingly large number,” said Douglas Young, who lives at Richmond Townhomes on Florence Drive. “The traffic is already too heavy for a road that small. … If it was a smaller development, we would not be so opposed.” 

Another Richmond Townhomes resident also worried about the traffic. She said making a left onto Browns Bridge Road is already “insanity” and is concerned about the safety of the area’s many elderly residents. 

“The additional units will increase traffic and turning movements at the intersection of Browns Bridge Road and Florence Drive,” according to the planning document. “Left turning movements are especially difficult during peak hour traffic.”


The site of a former Gainesville church building could become a 70-townhome development.

McKinley Homes US LLC is proposing to build the two-story townhomes at 2920 Florence Drive, south of Browns Bridge Road and behind the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

The church building would be torn down to make way for the 8-acre development, which will include a small park with a children’s play area and a dog walk, according to Gainesville planning documents.

Homes will be priced in the low $300,000s, said Bill Schmidt, McKinley’s vice president of land acquisition.

Hall County records show Woodlawn Baptist Church sold the property to New Life Christian Fellowship in 1998, and New Life sold it to Appalachee Ministries in 2002. A foreclosure took place on the property in 2003. America’s Home Place Inc. bought the property from Futurus Bank in 2004.

Signs of the old church are still evident, including a steeple with paint chipping away, a basketball goal without a net and a playground still upright in the back of the property.

McKinley’s proposal, which will go before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Feb. 8, calls for the attached homes to have two-car garages and vary in size from 1,603 to 1,863 square feet, according to documents.

The surrounding area is largely residential, including townhomes and condominiums.

“We believe the proposed townhome community and location provides for the housing needs of a growing, diverse population,” Schmidt says in a letter to the city.

McKinley is seeking a special use within the office and institutional zoning category to allow for the development.

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A 70-townhome development will be built south of Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville at the site of a former church.