A large group of North Hall residents came to the Hall County Planning Commission meeting Monday clad in red to support preserving their rural way of life.
The planning commission voted 3-2 Monday to deny a large development in Northwest Hall County — the second time the commission has heard the request.
In 2007, a 418-acre, 1,242-home proposal by United Central Investments was approved 5-0 by the planning commission, but was unanimously denied by the Hall County Board of Commissioners after North Hall residents voiced their disapproval.
The group went back to the drawing board, and United Central Investments came before the planning commission Monday after amending their original plan.
United Central Investments consultant Billy Martin asked for permission to rezone nearly 680 acres off of Price Road at Dudley Hill Road for a development that would include 918 single-family homes and commercial buildings.
This time, the developer would pay for sewer services from the city of Gainesville and build out in phases over 10-15 years, among other conditions.
Martin said the group has met with city and county officials as well as neighbors to create the best compromise for all parties.
The new plan would be less dense than the original plan and would include less commercial property. It also would be under zoning classification R-1, a more lenient, residential distinction.
The original request was to rezone the property to PRD, or Planned Residential Development, which requires the developer to have a much more detailed plan and return to the planning commission before any additions or changes can be made.
Many area residents returned to oppose the development.
Most agreed that regardless of the changes, such a development has no place in a rural area.
David Young, a farmer in denim overalls who owns approximately 210 acres of farmland that border the property, said suburban sprawl and farm life often do not jibe.
“I’m concerned about a bunch of neighbors complaining every time I pull a calf off its mom and that cow bellows non-stop for four to five days. And the bull also bellows non-stop when he’s not having his way. Or somebody sees me shoot a cow and hang it up in a tree to process that cow for me to eat,” Young said.
He said people choose to live in the area because they don’t want to be near development.
“I’m in the country. Most of my neighbors are in the country. That’s where they want to be,” he said. “Growth is not always right and growth is not always good.”
Arbor Road resident Steven Black said if the property has to be developed he’d like to see it done with more county oversight.
“I think the initial application was a much better plan,” Black said. “I think it’s a pipe dream to think this property’s not going to be developed.”
The planning commission considered the changes United Central Investments made to the development before coming to a vote.
Ultimately, the commission also felt that the original plan was better.
“I don’t know that I’m comfortable with an R-1,” said Jones Cottrell.
“I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the R-1 and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it as a PRD to be honest,” said Bill Evans, who made the motion to deny the request.
Evans, Cottrell and Johnny Varner voted to deny the request. Don Smallwood and Chris Braswell voted to approve it.
Steve Gilliam, the attorney representing United Central Investments, said the group is caught in a Catch-22.
“They (planning commission) approved it as a PRD. We’ve come back because the county commission voted it down as a PRD,” he said.
But Gilliam said he feels confident about returning to the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which has the final say in the matter, Aug. 13.
“It’s been a total change,” he said.