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Officials hope mixed-use development brings jobs, residents to Ga. 365 corridor
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After months of delay, developers of a proposed 476-acre mixed-use development in Northeast Hall County finally got the nod they were looking for Thursday night.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the residential and commercial project slotted for 3240 Chiplan Road, on the east side of Ga. 365 near the Gateway Industrial Centre, setting the stage for the county’s latest boom-or-bust cycle.

“We believe that this project will be a critical complement to the Gateway Industrial Centre and will provide much needed services to the area — shopping and restaurants and housing — to support the increased jobs and visitors there,” said developer Patrick Clark, owner of Barker Street LLC.

The project had been tabled since December because the area lacked wastewater infrastructure, and county officials were hesitant to greenlight a project that would leave the development cut off from proper sewer treatment facilities.

But the board settled the matter Thursday when it also voted unanimously to award a nearly $5.2 million contract bid to Strickland & Son Pipeline to build a pump station, sewer pipes and force mains in the area. The new infrastructure would transport wastewater to the Gainesville sewer system.

The pump station itself, which can process up to 750,000 gallons of wastewater per day, would be located on the site of the mixed-use project, as developers set aside about two acres for its construction. Commissioners approved spending an extra $671,000 on ductile iron sewer pipe, which they said has a longer shelf life, rather than PVC.

In justifying the development’s approval, officials called the Ga. 365 corridor an artery and gold mine for new development and economic growth.

The mixed-use development would consist of 186 single-family homes, 310 apartments and townhomes, and roughly 600,000 square feet of commercial and office space. Green space, including a trail system, also is planned.

Clark said he had met with local residents to address their concerns about the size of the development and its impact on quality of life.

“We’re not really for this project,” said Lee Hemmer, whose property abuts the project site, adding that if he had his druthers, the area would remain undeveloped.

But Hemmer said he was grateful for the work developers had done to mitigate a few of his concerns, including moving the proposed apartments farther from his property line and promising to erect a fence between.

“We feel like this is going to be a quality development,” Hemmer added.

But local resident Greg Burrell wasn’t so convinced. Pointing out vacant and unfinished developments nearby, he said he was concerned that the economy — still struggling to rebound from the Great Recession — could not support a project of this size at this time.

“Our concern is that it’s too much too soon,” he added. “I don’t want us to be Detroit with all the vacant properties.”

Commissioner Billy Powell said Burrell’s concerns could not be addressed because every project had to stand on its own merits.

“Unfortunately, that’s not a set of criteria that we can use for approval or denial,” Powell added.

The Ga. 365 corridor has long been a prize in the eyes of county officials. As South Hall blossoms thanks to the building of sewer infrastructure and residents pour in trying to escape the sprawl of Atlanta, officials have hoped the same would come true for the northern and eastern parts of the county.

Businesses, jobs and, yes, tax money are at play. For better or worse, officials were waiting on a big new development to light the way. And now they’ve got it.

“... I’m hoping something like this (development) would be a catalyst to hopefully fill in some of those (vacant) areas,” said Commissioner Craig Lutz. “I believe that this corridor is going to see a lot of jobs come to Hall County. I’m encouraged that there are people out there today that are willing to make an investment.”