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Residents oppose development of boat storage facility
Hall County Planning Commission tables decision
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About 200 county residents showed up for two controversial zoning requests Monday evening at the Hall County Planning Commission.

Most left disappointed as one item was tabled and the other approved.

Developer Tim Whitmire was requesting to rezone more than 3.8 acres on the north side of Mountain View Road at the intersection of Propes Drive from residential to commercial. He plans to build a boat storage facility adjacent to the Balus Creek Park, which has a boat ramp.

The facility would have 116 boat slips, an existing house to serve as an office and a larger existing house that would be used as a private residence. County planning staff recommended approval with 12 conditions. The analysis said the commercial zoning was out of place, but the elevation of the area could help maintain a residential feel.

Of the 200, about 150, most of them dressed in red, were at the meeting to voice opposition for the storage site.

However, Whitmire asked the commission to table the issue until Jan. 6. He said he asked for the item to be tabled so he would have more time to talk with the members of the community about the project.

“I live there on the property and (am) planning on staying there,” Whitmire said. “I just don’t want to be a bad neighbor. I feel like I’ve always tried to do quality developments in this area.”

Several residents, including David Gurley, said they would be back next year with even more people opposed to the development.

“We’re not in favor of any sort of commercial venture on Mountain View Road because it’s a residential area,” he said. “This could easily be the very first domino (to) fall in a long string of dominoes and we wind up with a sea of asphalt and barbed wire and broken-down boats, and that’s not something we want to have.”

The commission did approve a request from Hanson Aggregates Southeast LLC, which owns the Gainesville Quarry. The company is asking to rezone 113 acres from agricultural residential to heavy industrial so it can expand the quarry.

The rock quarry has existed since 1953, and has had a long history of trying to expand in the face of opposition.

A rezoning attempt in 2003 led to denial by the Hall County Board of Commissioners. Hanson filed a lawsuit against the county, and the court sent it back for reconsideration. Residents again opposed a rezoning request from the company in 2010, but Hanson withdrew the request several months later.

Company executives, represented by Gainesville attorney Steve Gilliam, presented the current request to the planning commission Monday.

It included several protection measures to reassure residents living nearby, including buffer zones, a high chain link fence, groundwater monitoring wells and monitoring of ground vibration.

Residents complained the stone blasting at the quarry has caused structural damage to their homes and they worried about their wells, which are the primary source of water in the area.

Several residents spoke against the plan.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve with conditions. Commissioner Craig Heighton recused himself, saying he had a conflict of interest because of his job as public affairs director at Georgia Transmission Corp.

Resident Mike Nieznany said he was upset by the commission’s decision.

“It’s all about money,” Nieznany said. “Mine’s the closest house that’s going to be there. That’s why I’m so upset about it.”

The board is scheduled to take up the issue at its Nov. 14 meeting. Hanson also needs sign-off from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.