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Planning commission approves 136-home subdivision at Price and Thompson Bridge roads
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A sign July 13, 2018, advertises a proposed 136-lot subdivision, Riverbrook Village, along Thompson Bridge Road north of Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

The Hall County Planning Commission voted Monday to approve a 136-home subdivision on Price Road near its intersection with Thompson Bridge Road, at a lot that has been vacant for several years.

Don Smallwood, Chris Braswell and Bo Brooks voted to approve the request by homebuilder DR Horton. Commission member Johnny Varner voted to deny the request, and commission member Frank Sosebee was absent Monday.

The detached single-family homes will be sold for about $210,000 to $230,000, and the neighborhood, which has been named Riverbrook Village, will have a pool and tennis courts.

Richard Bergen lives in the nearby Lanier Village Estates neighborhood. He said at Monday’s meeting that he was worried people may buy the homes in the neighborhood in order to manage them as rental properties.

“I’m concerned about long-term aspects of condition of the units in a rental environment,” he said.

Bergen said the proposed density of the neighborhood was another concern, a sentiment echoed by other area residents who spoke up Monday. The proposed density is 2.81 lots per acre.

“We’re concerned about the density and the fact that you’re going to create homes that are a little lower in value than those around the area and the surrounding areas, and also tightly packed,” Bergen said.

Sharon Roberts McDonald, who lives on Thompson Bridge Road, said the density of the neighborhood would only add to existing traffic nearby.

“Thompson Bridge, that area right there, is a main thoroughfare between Gainesville and Dahlonega, so it’s very heavily trafficked,” she said.

Julia Butler, who lives in the Walnut Grove subdivision off of Price Road, said homeowners there are concerned about dropping home values. She said area residents want the property to be invested in, but wisely.

“It’s been sitting over there for years, and it’s not attractive,” Butler said.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved the original development in 2006, then approved the property as a mixed-use commercial and residential development in 2013. The homes the planning commission approved Monday would replace the proposed commercial portion of the development, Srikanth Yamala, the county planning and development director, said Monday.

Up to 220 apartments have also been approved for the development. Those apartments were not part of the request approved Monday, and DR Horton is not involved with the proposed apartments.

Planning commission member Johnny Varner, who voted to deny the request, said the design of the neighborhood could be a safety hazard.

“I see this as a strain, based on the density of what you’re trying to put in there, on public safety and mainly the services that the fire department provides,” Varner said. “There are so many choke points, there’s no evacuation route … if it came to a scenario where they had to get out, you would have a problem with people leaving all at one time.”

The commission voted to approve the subdivision under the condition that homes would be set back five feet from the property lines.

Planning commission chairman Don Smallwood said developers would need to re-evaluate traffic flow in the neighborhood before the request goes to the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Aug. 9.

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