Plans for a 48,000-square-foot warehouse on Mabry Road moved forward on Monday after the Hall County Planning Commission recommended approval of a rezoning request.
Working with Patton Land Surveying and the Industrial Properties Group, both based in Gainesville, property owner Ben Brock is hoping to develop his 7-acre parcel along the small, paved road into an investment property with a warehouse and office space.
The rezoning would change the parcel to Light-Industrial-I from Agricultural-Residential-III.
Critics of the rezoning said that it would bring more traffic to the area, which is already at its limit because of the tiny Mabry Road — only 10 feet wide in some places, or less than half of the county’s standards for commercial roads — running between Centennial Drive and Old Flowery Branch Road.
Brock, who is almost 90 years old, was represented at the commission meeting by nephew Steven Brock. Steven Brock told the commission that the lot at 3521 Mabry Road has been for sale as residential property for more than a decade but hasn’t sold because of the surrounding industrial properties.
“Nobody wants to build a house there,” he said.
Daniel Norrell, a 50-year resident of Mabry Road, said he’s seen the worst of Hall County traffic in that area, including full-blown, road-rage-fueled fistfights.
“We have problems every day with people fighting trying to get through this road,” Norrell said.
Chris Patton, a co-owner of Patton Land Surveying who is working on Ben Brock’s project, noted that the developers plan to divert traffic flow away from the residential areas of Mabry Road by relying on Centennial Drive. Trucks would enter Mabry Road from Centennial Drive, be directed by signs into the industrial lot and be prevented by the construction of the driveway and signs from making a left turn, which would take them to the narrowest portion of Mabry Road.
“You would have to make an illegal turn” to make it back to Old Flowery Branch Road, Patton said.
Evelyn Norrell, another resident of the area, said she wasn’t buying it.
“It’s just dangerous,” Norrell said. “And I don’t care what kind of sign you put up, you know as well as I do that they ain’t gonna go by it any more than the 20 mph (speed limit) sign.”
County engineer Charles Turner said the Norrells were “absolutely right” about the behavior on their road.
“The traffic, you can’t believe it unless you’re there,” Turner said.
Brock and the property developers agreed to several conditions recommended by the Planning Department, including improvement of Mabry Road near Centennial Drive and wider tree buffers between the lot and nearby residences.
Planning commissioners ultimately voted to recommend the rezoning for approval by the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which will consider the request later this month.
“I think the applicant has shown their intent to put as little detriment on the property owners up the street as possible,” said Planning Commissioner Chris Braswell.
Daniel Norrell said he’s been working to close the portion of Mabry Road near his and his family’s residences, but the process through the county was slow-going. Planning Commission Chairman Don Smallwood recommended Norrell continue in his efforts to have the portion of small residential road closed to through traffic.
“What’s it take to close that part of the road? An act of Congress?” Smallwood asked.