In an emotional meeting, Hall County Planning Commission members voted Monday to approve the proposed River Brook Village property development off Price Road in North Hall.
“The current proposal is completely out of character with the low-density residential characteristics of the North Hall community,” said Jeremy Griffey, vice president of the Walnut Grove Homeowners Association. “The burden that this proposal would put on the residents of Walnut Grove is severe.”
River Brook Village is a planned commercial site and residential apartment complex at the northwest corner of Price and Thompson Bridge roads, now occupied only by a CVS pharmacy. The go-ahead, approved by four of the commission members and opposed by Bo Brooks, came with several conditions, including a 200-apartment-unit limit, an amenities package starting with Phase I development and a prohibition on income-assisted tenants. Brooks said he was concerned about the amount of density and the plan was too aggressive.
Commission member Craig Heighton said he shared Brooks’ density concern.
“That’s what I was struggling with,” he said.
More than 50 residents attended Monday’s meeting and several spoke against the plan.
The planning commission had earlier postponed a decision and urged a compromise between the business executives and the residents. The developers agreed to lower the amount of apartment units from 288 to 240. They also agreed to build a right-turn access road from Thompson Bridge Road to the apartments to help relieve traffic congestion.
Many of the speakers were concerned about additional traffic and the number of renters the complex would bring.
Attendees alternately broke out in applause and shouted “No” during parts of the meeting.
The land was bought by real estate developers Steve McKibbon and Robbie Robison before the economic crisis and they originally planned to build a number of town houses on the site. The change to build a 288-unit apartment complex raised concerns among area residents.
Real estate lawyer Steve Gilliam, who represented McKibbon and Robison at the meeting, said people are not buying town houses now, but they are renting. The project would generate more than $800,000 for Hall County. Just the residential side would create 148 temporary jobs, Gilliam said.
“Nobody wants new town homes,” he said.
Robison said he and McKibbon were happy with the decision, but they would have to see if 200 apartment units were feasible. The Hall County Board of Commissioners is expected to consider the proposal at its Dec. 13 meeting.