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Retirement development on Ahaluna stirs mixed feelings
Residents worried about construction, environment
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Residents left with mixed feelings about plans for a mixed-use development off Ahaluna Drive in Gainesville after a community meeting on the project Wednesday at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

“It will not be as bad,” said Gene Korzeniewski, a resident who lives at the entrance of Watauga Drive off Ahaluna. “It’s still going to be bad.”

There’s a delicate balance between protecting the character of the neighborhood that exists there now and the almost inevitable development that will come of pristine wooded acreage.

So for residents in the area, who live in alcoves perched above the shores of Lake Lanier, the biggest test comes in the size and scope of the development.

The Gainesville City Council approved a 199-lot subdivision for the property in 2014.

But now that it’s under new ownership — Oak Hall Companies has purchased the property from West Ahaluna LLC, a local developer with ties to America’s Home Place — plans have changed to a 700-residence retirement community with single-family homes, attached homes and independent living and assisted living units.

This could actually bring less traffic congestion.

With a retirement community, work and school traffic would be limited, and now a proposal is on the table to add an additional entrance to the community from Dawsonville Highway.

The results of a traffic study are expected in three weeks.

A commercial property is also planned facing Dawsonville Highway.

But that’s the long-term outlook.

The new proposal calls for a much more aggressive construction timeline, with the first homes on the market by the spring of 2018 and the entire development finished within four years.

The previous plans called for a 15-year buildout.

But there are a “lot of issues that hadn’t been worked out,” Korzeniewski said.

He concedes that residents are a bit hand-tied going forward given that the city has previously approved plans for the site.

But he hopes to put together a detailed guide with neighbors to ensure that proper environmental controls are put in place and monitored to protect against silt runoff from construction sites.

“It’s going to be hell to pay with all the construction equipment running back and forth,” he said. 

Korzeniewski said he is receiving support from the Lake Lanier Association to run baseline tests of water quality in the area to measure against possible changes when the development is underway.

City officials told The Times they are committed to ensuring the right project goes in. That could mean limiting scale, requiring additional environmental protections, and looking at ways to alleviate traffic.

Residents will have time to register their likes and dislikes in the coming weeks before the city planning commission reviews a request to rezone and annex about 205 acres near Dawsonville Highway along the shores of Lake Lanier.

And it will likely be 2017 before the City Council has its say.

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