A subdivision in southeastern Hall County is fundraising to buy land and prevent a developer from connecting more homes to their existing neighborhood.
Residents of the Reunion subdivision have raised nearly $58,000 from 186 households toward their $160,000 goal since the start of the month, as of Friday, Sept. 17. Donors receive personal letters of thanks and red ribbons to tie to their front porch as a show of support from lead organizers.
The development, first presented to the Hall County Planning Commission on Aug. 16, would add 144 more single-family homes at 7013, 7095 and 7099 Spout Springs Road to Reunion, which currently has 802 homes. Atlanta-based Pulte Group is seeking to rezone 57-acres from agricultural residential use to planned residential development. The plan also includes a 1,500-square-foot swimming pool near Reunion’s existing amenities.
The commission voted to approve the application, with conditions including disallowing Pulte from having a connecting road onto Grand Reunion Drive, which was the biggest priority for Reunion residents.
Residents don’t necessarily oppose new development on Spout Springs, but they don’t want expansion of their subdivision that would include additional traffic and more people using Reunion’s amenities.
Despite the commission’s condition that seemed to address residents’ concerns, they still plan on purchasing the piece of property necessary for Pulte to build a connecting road from the existing Reunion subdivision to the 144-home expansion. The land is currently owned by the golf course, Reunion Golf Club, LLC, but organizers in the subdivision have created their own nonprofit association, Reunion Preserve, LLC, in order to purchase the land.
Gary Hodges, a Reunion resident and real estate broker with experience in land acquisitions, told the Times this week he submitted a letter of intent in August, agreeing to purchase the land for $150,000. The closing date is Nov. 13, Hodges said, and the $160,000 fundraising goal includes legal fees and taxes on the land. Even if they come up short of their goal as a neighborhood, Hodges said he is confident the deal will get done.
“If we do come up short when it’s time to close money-wise, there’s men that are going to step in to put the rest of the money up, and I’m going to be part of it,” Hodges said. “We’re going to close on the deal. … We do not want Pulte in our subdivision anymore.”
Pulte still plans on coming to terms on a land deal themselves, and will ask the Hall County Board of Commissioners to allow for the connecting road, said Brian Rochester of Rochester and Associates, representing Pulte. The board has final say at the meeting Thursday, Sept. 23.
“Pulte is still moving forward, anticipating being able to work something out with the golf course,” Rochester said. “The question is if they (residents) are able to actually purchase that land. … (Pulte) have spent a lot of time and energy on that investment, and this connection is important to be able to continue that legacy of what Reunion is and what they’ve been able to create there.”
Rhonda McKinney owns a home adjacent to the potential connecting road and has been one of the lead organizers of the effort to stop expansion of Reunion since a contentious meeting between residents and Pulte in July. She helped set up a Facebook group that residents use to share information and organize meetings. The page has recently been populated with proud red ribbons on front porches.
“To not have that roadcut there and have all that extra traffic and everything should be worth it to everybody in the neighborhood,” McKinney said. “The way we look at it and are trying to get the homeowners to look at it is: it’s really saving the value of our property.”
Tom McDermott, another Reunion resident, helped come up with the red ribbon campaign idea and is planning to go door-to-door with others Saturday morning, Sept. 18, to get the word out to anyone who doesn’t already know.
“It’s still an educational process to make people realize: this is not a joke,” McDermott said.
However, if the Board of Commissioners approve the Planning Commission’s previous amendment to remove any road connection between the new homes and Reunion, residents may not need to purchase the land. Residents see the purchase as the best permanent solution to protect against expansion. But if the board accepts the condition they seek, then no developer could add a connecting road in the future without coming back to the board for approval.
“It’s all about who’s got control, and we’ve got control,” Hodges said. “We’re going to close on the land to close out any more traffic and golf carts because (Reunion) is big enough.”