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Some residents oppose development possibilities
Final vote set tonight on Flowery Branch rezonings, annexation
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Mike Baker is one of many residents in the Bell Drive area of McEver and Gaines Ferry roads who are against the proposed annexation and rezoning plan in Flowery Branch that would allow nearby development.

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Listen as Mike Barker talks about a proposal before Flowery Branch City Council on an annexation and rezoning of neighboring property for commercial and industrial uses.

Proposed annexations and rezonings
What: Flowery Branch City Council has scheduled a final vote on actions involving property at McEver and Gaines Ferry roads
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: City Hall, 5517 Main St., Flowery Branch
Contacts: 770-967-6371

Mike Baker moved nearly a year ago to Bell Drive in South Hall because of the surroundings.

"It’s not necessarily country, but it’s kind of like the last little piece of that here in suburbia," he said.

Now, he and others are fearing that certain development, and the extra traffic it might bring, might shatter their peace and quiet off Gaines Ferry and McEver roads.

Flowery Branch City Council is poised to give final consideration tonight to a batch of proposals that would pave the way for several commercial and manufacturing uses in that area.

The council voted Feb. 4 to give its first OK, despite pleas from a roomful of residents to at least put off the matter. South Hall Commissioner Bobby Banks, who was in the group, had submitted a letter to the city asking for a delay.

The council is considering the annexation of nearly 45 1/2 acres split among five parcels, ranging in size from 1 to 20 acres, off the two roads.

The applicant, Gainesville engineering firm Rochester & Associates, also wants the city to rezone that area to highway business and manufacturing and industrial.

In another petition, Rochester is seeking rezoning of nearly 31 1/2 acres next to the properties and farther north on McEver Road to manufacturing and industrial — land now zoned in the city for neighborhood shopping.

Rochester is representing Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Stonebridge LLC and Alpharetta-based Kelly Family Investments on the matter.

All the lots are vacant, except for some landscaping and subdivision signs.

And no particular projects are planned on the properties, City Planner James Riker said.

One of Rochester’s executives, Brian Rochester, said at the Feb. 4 council meeting that the owners want high-quality development in the area that brings jobs and won’t hurt the area.

"They have a bigger stake in this than anyone," he said.

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, told the council that the site needs zoning and utilities before receiving serious consideration from a developer.

Residents, meanwhile, opposed the proposals for several reasons, including concerns over lower property values and heavier traffic in the area. Many particularly raised concerns about the manufacturing uses.

Even though the city has cut out many potential uses, Baker still worries that the area is not suitable "for even light commercial with trucking terminals," he said this week.

He said he got a bad taste while living for seven years in Buford.

"They definitely are pro-large business and don’t seem to wonder (about) the residential side of (the city)," Baker said. "... You go up Buford Highway and other corridors, there’s tons of warehousing and trucking terminals. And the added traffic and wear and tear on the roads in that area was phenomenal.

"Where we are, here on Bell Drive, if something like that were to be here, something running two or three shifts, is going to be ... well, just the sheer noise pollution and lights and all that."

He said that one street stands between his house and the northern end of the property in consideration.

"If they clear-cut (the property), there’s potential to see (a developed site)," Baker said.

Rochester said at the Feb. 4 meeting that if Flowery Branch doesn’t give its OK, "his client will move forward with the county or another jurisdiction," according to council minutes.

Councilman Kris Yardley told the audience at the meeting that council members still were open to comments from residents and that possible changes could be made to the proposals up until the final vote.

Riker, who presented the proposals at the Feb. 4 meeting, said this week that he hadn’t heard of any updates to the plans.

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