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Opinion: Hall officials ignoring their own development guidelines
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The new downtown Gainesville development Gainesville Renaissance continues to rise Wednesday, March 17, 2021, on the fourth side of the square. The new development will be a collection of luxury residences and retail space. - photo by Scott Rogers

Residents and taxpayers of Hall County should be aware of the fact the current Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission have no interest in following any kind of blueprint for smart and organized growth and development of our county.

It is not that the Hall County “leaders” do not have the resources before them to invest in smart, managed growth of our beautiful county. They actually have a virtual road map to follow. The road map is called the Hall County Comprehensive Plan of 2017 and is the product of extensive professional consultation and the expenditure of considerable Hall County taxpayer money. 

In the Comprehensive Plan, the county is divided into specific segments with definitive growth and development outlines for each of the segments. A good example of the designation of segments is the area of South Hall County near Braselton and Duncan Corners where Reunion Country Club and other major subdivisions are located. This segment is tabbed as part of District 1 of Hall County and is designated as “residential” in character, being earmarked specifically for single family homes and developments of “moderate” density. Those density terms are defined in the Comprehensive Plan as being no more than two residential units per acre.

In January of this year, our commissioners, following the lead of District 1 Commissioner Kathy Cooper and with the auspices of the Hall County Planning Commission, voted unanimously to overrule the objections of the Hall County Planning Department and a multitude of area taxpayers and allow for the development of a townhouse complex consisting of 226 residential units on a 38-acre tract directly abutting the Reunion development. This complex will produce density of nearer to six residential units per acre; is definitely not “moderate” density; is totally contrary to the existing character and nature of the surrounding community; and is in direct violation of the Comprehensive Plan.

This is not a step out of the ordinary. It is, rather, a normal mode of operation for our “leaders” to totally ignore the Comprehensive Plan, to dismiss the advice of our professionally staffed planning department and to allow growth and development on a whim or on unfounded personal preference. 

In colloquial terms, it might be said the leaders of Hall County are exhibiting “good ol’ boy” county management, something we should have outgrown long ago. One could possibly explain away these acts as ignorance of the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan except for the fact that four of our five current commissioners were the founding adopters of the plan. Indeed, there is a document on public file signed by each of them attesting to that fact. 

Hit or miss, illogical, poorly placed and unplanned development will ultimately destroy the desirability of Hall County as a place to call home and to establish a business. Enough damage has been done already. We must insist that our leaders follow the guidelines of the Comprehensive Plan and restore some sensible order to the development and growth of Hall County.

Don Smith


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