Resident Mel Christian sees the traffic streaming down the two-lane McEver Road in South Hall, especially on the weekends, as boaters and RVers head to Lake Lanier.
“And now we’re going to keep moving warehouses farther and farther north? Where is it going to stop?” he said.
Many of his neighbors share the same concern as they mobilize again in what they view as a protracted battle to try to stop nearly 400,000 square feet of warehouse space from getting built at 6533 McEver Road, just south of Flowery Branch city limits.
Chicago-based CA Ventures is set to ask the Buford Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 20, to annex the 36-acre tract from agricultural-residential to light industrial to allow for the development.
The request marks the third government CA Ventures has approached in trying to get the project off the ground.
The company first sought approval from Hall County. In October 2020, the project was recommended for denial by the Hall County Planning Commission, then it was withdrawn before the Hall County Board of Commissioners could vote in November.
“We didn’t think we would win,” said Steve Rowley, a CA Ventures vice president, reflecting on that process during an arbitration panel hearing in June.
After Flowery Branch voted it down in December, CA Ventures approached Buford. Hall County filed a formal objection, leading to the arbitration panel that ruled Buford’s way on June 9.
The process has exasperated residents.
“It should be over,” said Teresa Cantrell, who lives near the proposed site. “Neighbors have spent their time and energy and poured their hearts into expressing their concerns. It should be that we can go back to life. It’s really tragic that we’re having to do this again.”
State law allows annexations as long the property in question touches city boundaries, and both Flowery Branch and Buford have adjoining city limits.
Residents, as well as Hall County in its objection, have said a warehouse doesn’t belong in a residential area. Plus, they’re concerned about traffic safety, especially with a curve that’s right on the property being eyed by CA Ventures.
The company said it recognizes the safety issues.
“To further ensure the safety of our future tenants and neighbors, as part of the project, CA will fund the improvement of the currently dangerous curve along McEver road,” the company said in an email Friday, July 16.
Improvements would include widening the road to increase the line of sight from 55 feet to almost 1,000 feet and adding middle turn and deceleration lanes, according to CA Ventures.
“It is our goal that the widening of McEver Road will cut down on traffic as it will not only create additional lanes but also reduce the likelihood of an accident by increasing the line of sight,” the company said.
Overall, “from an economic standpoint, the site will contribute towards increased economic activity in Buford and South Hall County,” CA Ventures said. “The site has the potential to bring more than 200 jobs to Buford and South Hall County and will increase the tax base to pay for local schools and other needed improvements.
As far as chances for approval, the project seems to have picked up early endorsement from Buford.
“We believe the use is appropriate in light of existing land uses in the McEver Road corridor and zoning of adjacent properties,” City Attorney Gregory D. Jay has said. “This development will provide needed safety and infrastructure improvements and expand the county’s tax digest.”
And Buford Planning Commission Chairman Robert Perkins said during a March 9 meeting on the development that even though McEver Road “doesn’t carry the name Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, it is part of Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.”
A massive warehouse development — nearly 1 million square feet in size — is under development about a mile away from the CA Ventures site. And it is near other industrial properties.
The planning commission’s vote is not the final word on the project, however.
The board can only make a recommendation to the Buford City Commission, which is set to vote on the project Aug. 2.
If approved, the company said it expects the project to be completed in late 2022.