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How commission voted on 350-unit apartment proposal after storm of opposition
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A proposed 350-unit South Hall apartment complex off Thompson Mill Road is headed to the Hall County Planning Commission on Monday, Aug. 3. (Renderings courtesy Rochester & Associates)

Update: A sizable crowd of concerned residents showed up to the May 12 Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting in objection to a controversial proposal for a 350-unit apartment complex off the south side of Thompson Mill Road near Spout Springs Road.

Despite objections from numerous residents that ranged from decreased property value of homes to traffic concerns over an influx of would-be renters, the commissioners opted to approve the request with conditions via a 3-2 vote.

Commissioners Shelly Echols and Kathy Cooper were the dissenting votes.

The site plan from Gainesville-based developer Rochester and Associates calls for 13 residential buildings and one clubhouse over 30 acres of land and a rezoning from agricultural-residential-IV to planned residential development.

The project should be completed by 2022, according to county documents.

The proposal was previously rejected in August 2020 following a storm of negative feedback and a petition from residents. However, a Hall Superior Court judge’s order remanded the decision and sent the request back to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for reconsideration.

Still, residents remain nonplussed in public comments both spoken and submitted via email to commissioners.

“The more important factor for me, and my family, is the inevitable crime that accompanies every apartment development,” said resident Brad Schrage. “This area is mainly populated by residential neighborhoods and subsequently has a very low crime rate. Our neighborhood, in particular, is filled with young children and they don't need to be exposed to the bad element that inevitably invades any rental properties.”

MaRana Nix, a resident of Flowery Branch for 30 years, expressed traffic concerns.

“I oppose the development. As a resident of the same address for 30-plus years I've seen an increase in traffic and accidents many times over,” she wrote in public comments. “Additional housing nearby will only add to that already congested and unsafe roadway.”

However, Rochester and Associates touted the benefits of the complex citing its proximity to the Duncan Crossing retail development and major employers in the area such as Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

According to developers, individual apartments will feature one, two, and three-bedroom floorplans and one-bedroom rentals will be priced at $1,250.

Among the conditions approved by the Commissioners including a limit of units to 350 at 11.2 units per acre and a provision that open space shall account for at least 30% of the property. 

Previous story: A Hall Superior Court judge’s order is sending a previously rejected 350-unit apartment complex back to the Hall County Board of Commissioners for reconsideration.

The commission voted Aug. 27, 2020, to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed the development off Thompson Mill Road in South Hall. 

An appeal was filed Sept. 28 in Superior Court saying, among other things, that the proposal “permits a use that is suitable in view of the use, development and zoning of adjacent and nearby property.”

Judge Jason Deal ruled on April 13 that the proposal must go back before the commission for reconsideration. The commission is set to do that Wednesday, May 12.

The four-sentence ruling doesn’t give a reason for the decision but declares “if the property is rezoned, plaintiffs will dismiss this action with each party to bear its own fees and expenses. If rezoning is denied, then this action will resume.”

Project applicant Rochester & Associates, a Gainesville engineering firm, is seeking a rezoning of the 31-acre site from agricultural-residential to planned residential development for the project, which would feature 13 residential buildings, a clubhouse, swimming pool and passive park. The development would be east of Spout Springs Road and next to the Oaks at Braselton assisted living center. 

“The apartments will provide housing opportunities to major employers in the area, such as Northeast Georgia Medical Center, located only two miles away,” applicant Rochester & Associates says in its application.

The development was recommended for approval by the Hall County Planning Commission on Aug. 3.

Development map

For information about other area developments, view this map.

Some speakers at the Aug. 27 meeting said they supported the apartment complex because they saw the need for more housing for younger professionals in the area, but the proposal drew concerns from several area residents who said they were worried about overcrowding, traffic and property values.

South Hall Commissioner Kathy Cooper made the motion to deny the proposal.

“This has been an ongoing thing for me for a month — and a lot of emotion, a lot of research on my part,” she said at the meeting.

No discussion followed her motion.

Going into Wednesday’s vote, the Hall County planning staff is recommending approval of the project with several conditions, including that open space account for 30% of the development and that the development “conform substantially with the proposed site plan.”

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