Residents dressed in red to signify opposition to a proposed boat storage facility in a residential area off Lake Lanier got their wish Thursday night.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners denied the application of developer Tim Whitmire to rezone the neighborhood to allow for commercial development.
Citing a loss of property values, increased traffic and fears about crime, about 100 residents of a lake peninsula along Mountain View Road in West Hall, where nearly 450 homes are located, showed up at the commission meeting in an attempt to sway the board’s decision.
Whitmire’s proposal called for a boat storage facility housing 116 slips, an existing house to serve as an office, and a larger existing house to be used as a private residence.
Gary Garrett, who spearheaded the opposition, laid out his objections to the commission.
“What we are objecting to is (Whitmire’s) proposal ... that would give him special consideration to expand his rights beyond the rights of the rest of the community,” Garrett said. “We feel that our rights are infringed upon by his request to build something that is not consistent with the rest of the neighborhood, bringing additional risk of crime, trash, light pollution, traffic and property devaluation to everyone except himself.”
David Gurley expressed his concern that rezoning would start a domino effect resulting in unchecked commercial development.
Linda Kern stated her case more simply.
“The residents don’t want it,” she said.
Whitmire was gracious in defeat, and continued to stand by his project even after the board’s decision, expressing his belief that his proposal had been mischaracterized.
“I still feel like it’s needed,” he told The Times, adding that a boat storage facility is a good use of the land he owns because a boat ramp and access point to the lake already exist in the neighborhood.
Several commissioners said they know Whitmire personally, and vouched for his good reputation as a longtime developer in Hall County.
Commissioner Jeff Stowe, while voting to deny the project, said he felt Whitmire had been slandered in an anonymous letter mailed to him and other commissioners.
“Rezonings are the most difficult decisions that this board makes,” Commissioner Billy Powell said, acknowledging the raw emotion stirred by Whitmire’s proposed project. “I probably got more emails and phone calls on this rezoning than any other I’ve had in my 10 years on this board.”
Commissioner Craig Lutz cast the lone dissent and waxed constitutional about the value of Whitmire’s own property rights, as well as the need for new business and development. Lutz said Hall County’s future depends on it.
“This county does have to grow” to continue to pay for services and personnel, Lutz said, adding that he supported the project with certain use restrictions initially proposed by the county planning staff but rejected by the planning commission.
After the vote, the residents wearing red were all smiles as they celebrated in the corridor leading to the meeting room, shaking hands with one another and calling it a victory for the neighborhood.