Hall County Commission gave the final approval for a 2,736-home North Hall subdivision Thursday that will include a 20-acre school site, 1,000,000 square feet of commercial space and possibly an 18-hole golf course.
"This is perhaps the largest development we’ve seen here in the county," said Randy Knighton, Hall County planning director.
Hagen Creek is situated on 1,507 acres located east of Ga. 52 and north of Ga. 365 along Belton Bridge Road in Lula. The commission rezoned the property from agriculture residential and vacation cottage to planned residential and commercial development.
Currently owned by Austrian brothers Felix and Ferdinand Mayr-Meinhof, the rolling Hagen Creek land has been the property of the Mayr-Meinhof family for 30 years.
The Florida-based planning and design firm Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan are developing the subdivision and aim for the project to serve as a sustainable mixed-use master-planned community that integrates people of various ages and wealth.
John Fish, vice president of planning and landscape architecture with the Florida developing firm, said developers want to create a broad range of housing sizes and prices. Hagen Creek could contain flat-like housing above small retail centers within the community as well as country lots settled on an acre of land.
According to the plan approved by the county commission, a minimum of 70 percent of residential units will be single-family detached dwellings.
"We certainly expect that a portion of the community will be retirees, but we also expect that a significant portion will be families, as well," Fish said.
Given the high quality planned for the homes, Fish said recreational amenities are going to be very important to the success of the project. Developers plan to construct various amenities which may include a trail system, equestrian, tennis and swimming facilities, small neighborhood parks, village greens and an 18-hole golf course with a driving range and clubhouse.
Eighty percent of the 1,000,000 square feet of commercial and office space will be located along Ga. 365, with the remainder lying in a village center and two proposed hamlets, which may include both commercial and residential components.
Fish said the hamlets will mimic "a small Georgia crossroads town" with a cluster of retail stores potentially comprised of bookstores, cafes, ice cream shops, convenience stores, dry cleaners, attorney or insurance offices and residences.
Developers tentatively plan for a public school to be constructed on a 20-acre site within Hagen Creek.
Fish said developers have had initial conversations with the Hall County School Board, and the age for which the school will serve has yet to be determined by the school board. He added the school could be located on a parkway acting as the "spine of the development" to be built between Ga. 52 North to Belton Bridge Road.
Carl Nichols of Athens, who represents the landowners, said developers are discussing the possibility of connecting the subdivision to the proposed Lula sewer treatment site adjacent to the Hagen Creek property.
Fish said 12 to 16 years is an optimistic build out period for the project, but construction could last up to 20 years. He said construction could begin within the next two to three years.
Two Hall County residents opposed the project during the county commission meeting. They voiced concerns regarding traffic and crime as well as the retail hamlets proposed within the residential areas of Hagen Creek.
As a condition for approval, the commission required a traffic engineering study be done at the expense of the developer before building permits can be obtained. The traffic study will assess the areas surrounding Hagen Creek and must be completed by an independent party detailing the existing conditions and projected impacts on transportation as a result of the development.
After a resident voiced opposition to a portion of the plan allowing developers to potentially add roughly 270 more homes to the development, County Commissioner Steve Gailey struck the clause from the Hagen Creek plan with the commission’s approval. Gailey said that if the developer seeks to build more homes, permission must first be gained through the county and planning commission process.
"In my opinion this is a small city," Gailey said. "It’s a good overall development. These things are going to be cottage-style, good-looking homes. This is not cheap housing that’s going in there — this is somewhere I’d like to live."