Despite the parade of community members who took to the microphone to voice their dissent regarding the proposed developments along Highway 20, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted to approve six out of the seven requests during their public hearing this evening.
The only parcel the commission didn’t approve for rezoning was the acreage between Hope Hollow Road and Champions Way, just in front of Grayson High School.
“The bottom line is, even if we voted to approve none of these proposals, the property is still zoned R-100 with no restrictions,” District 3 Commissioner Tommy Hunter explained. “This is an opportunity to work towards a vision of something that’s better.”
Things began normally, with the Board of Commissioners approving minutes and agendas, as well as announcing which items on the agenda would be tabled until June. Once those formalities were out of the way, the main event for the evening was obvious: the development in Grayson.
Jeff Mahaffey stood to represent Grayson Investment Partners LLC. Mahaffey began by detailing the history of the property – how it was initially owned by Hoke O’Kelly until 1964, and then by Doc Harrison, who donated the land to the Medical College of Georgia upon his death in 2012. The land became property of the college’s fundraising arm.
Mahaffey then explained his client’s latest proposal, which featured 760 homes and stand alone retail space all per the Planning Commission’s recommendations. Mahaffey shared renderings of the types of homes and retail space his clients intend to bring to Grayson.
“This property has been off the market for 50 years,” Mahaffey said. “We want to build something that’s even better than what it’s currently zoned for.”
Though allotted an hour by Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, Mahaffey yielded the floor after only 22 minutes. When Nash opened the floor to the opponents of the project, the entire front row of seats was filled with folks ready to share their thoughts.
And there were plenty of thoughts to go around. Concerns were centered mostly on how the development would impact traffic and schools, the loads of undeveloped retail and residential space left behind after the market crash in 2008, and the loss of the idyllic rural setting many residents love about Grayson.
“People keep saying, ‘Oh, look how well Suwanee has incorporated this stuff in their city’,” said James Vanderpool, one of the eight residents to speak against the proposals. “Well, if I’d wanted to live in Suwanee, I would have bought in Suwanee.”
After almost 90 minutes of discussion, the proposals were officially brought up for a vote. Nash thanked the audience for being respectful of the time, and for being vocal about their concerns.
Hunter echoed her sentiment, adding, “You lose a lot of sleep – and in my case, do a lot of praying – to make sure you get things like this right. In every decision we make, we try and do things in the best interest of the people we represent.”
Hunter then recommended approval of each of the seven proposals with the Planning Commissions restrictions – and then added a few extra restrictions of his own. Just a few of the restrictions include:
- The housing developments must be done in phases, meaning the developer can’t just clear cut the space. Trees and vegetation must remain on the undeveloped phases until it’s time for them to be developed.
- While the first phase of housing can begin at the developer’s timetable, the second phase cannot begin until the first phase is over 50% sold and occupied. The same standard applies for each subsequent phase.
- The retail spaces must be single retail buildings – no strip shopping centers – and no building may exceed 30,000 square feet.
The Planning Commission had previously placed restrictions on the retail properties that prohibit their development until 2017 at the earliest.
Full minutes of the meeting will be available on the Gwinnett County Commission website later this month, and the entire broadcast of the meeting will be available for viewing on Thursday evening.