Traffic congestion on Spout Springs Road loomed over the approval of a 10-acre expansion of a 352-unit apartment complex in South Hall on Monday.
Morningstar Investment Group has taken over the 3-year-old project on Spout Springs Road in unincorporated Hall County near Flowery Branch. The project was first approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners in 2014.
On Monday, the Hall County Planning Commission approved Morningstar’s request to rezone lots near the original project in the 6000 block of Spout Springs Road to add another 10 acres to the complex. The request wouldn’t add additional apartments to the complex, and the addition of the 10 acres must be approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners in November.
Back in 2014, the 352-unit project was planned to be on 29.2 acres — a density of 12 units per acre. Management of the project has changed hands from KHTW to Morningstar, which sought to add land to the project. The additional land would spread the units and structures within the nearly 40 acres for a density of about 9 units per acre.
The project is the only one of that size in the works in unincorporated Hall County, according to Planning Director Srikanth Yamala.
Ed Myers and his civil engineering firm, Myers & Co., is working with Morningstar Investment Group on the project. He told the Planning Commission on Monday that the group was looking to add two parcels to the existing project because of traffic flow.
Spout Springs Road is due to be widened into a four-lane divided highway with a concrete median in the coming years through a project involving the county and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Myers, who has been talking to Hall County engineers, said the “main reason” for the land expansion was to line up the exit to the complex with breaks in that median.
“We were fairly limited before,” he said. “I mean, we could get a right in and right out, but we’re trying to work with the county and line up with their median cuts with the road as it comes through there.”
But traffic isn’t on the mind of the developers alone.
Three years ago, residents near the proposed complex opposed the project on the grounds that it would add to an already congested area, both in local public schools and on the roadways.
Some of those same concerns surfaced Monday before the Planning Commission, which was considering Morningstar’s request to add the additional 10 acres to the project.
“Right now if I pull up to Forest Knoll and I want to take a left at 7 o’clock in the morning, it takes 10 to 12 minutes,” said Ken Hewell, who lives in the subdivision just south of the proposed complex, “and I’ve always wondered why we don’t have something going with the county already (to fix that). If they build (352) apartments, that’s going to make it even worse.”
Traffic problems were raised at the meeting because the Planning Commission intended to exempt the developers from paying for a traffic study if construction began after the widening of Spout Springs Road.
If the developers pull permits for the project before widening of the road begins, they’ll have to fund a traffic study. Myers said the companies involved didn’t want to pay for a traffic study on a road that would be substantially wider in the next few years.
“That makes more sense to me too because they’re not adding any units, but they’re adding more land,” said Planning Commissioner Chris Braswell, “and we didn’t require a traffic study before.”
The Planning Commission agreed to exempt the project from a traffic study unless building begins before Spout Springs Road is widened. Commissioners unanimously approved the request to add the two lots totaling about 10 acres to the project.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners will consider the request in early November.