Barrow County’s planning commission recommended last week approving a developer’s request to rezone more than 130 acres of land to build a residential subdivision in the northeastern part of the county, but was against a separate request to not require the developer to make upgrades to a side road where a second entrance would be constructed.

MBC Developers, LLC, is seeking to rezone 136.65 acres at Finch Road and Finch Drive in Winder to construct 115 single-family homes, each of them at least 2,000 heated square feet with “modern farmhouse architecture,” according to the plans. The proposed R-1 rezoning for low-density residential development didn’t draw any opposition from the commission or the public, but there was opposition to the developer’s request to grant a variance that would relieve the developer from making improvements to Finch Drive required under county code.

Holt Persinger of Ridgeline Land Planning, who represented the applicants at the Nov. 18 public hearing before the panel, said the applicants were seeking the variance because an existing cemetery, which they do not have ownership of, encroaches on and overlaps an easement that would prevent them from making improvements to the gravel road.

“It’s a true hardship. It’s a burden we can’t overcome,” Persinger said.

Finch Drive resident Barbara Petty said during the public hearing she wasn’t opposed to the development, but asked the county to hold the developer to making the road upgrades. She said the road would be too narrow and dangerous to handle increased traffic going toward the second entrance. Persinger rebutted that the secondary entrance would be intended for emergency vehicles only and that not making upgrades to the road would, ideally, “discourage traffic.”

Still, county planning director Rebecca Whiddon said, upgrades to Finch Drive would be required for emergency vehicles to access it. Persinger said he wasn’t sure that the county’s transportation department was aware of the cemetery encroachment issue because it wasn’t referenced in the staff report.

Planning commission member Kevin Jackson said the applicants should work with the county staff to determine whether any graves are located within the easement and develop a plan for the improvements to Finch Drive.

The commission’s recommendations, which passed by a 5-1 vote with Robert Lanham opposed and Ray Fowler absent, now head to the county board of commissioners for a public hearing and final decision Dec. 14. If the BOC goes along with the panel, the developers would need to either make the required improvements to Finch Drive or reduce the number of planned lots below 100.


In a separate case Nov. 18, the commission voted 5-1 to table until its Dec. 16 meeting a decision on a request by Ridgeline Land Planning to rezone 50.6 acres along Highway 211 NW in Winder for a high-density (R-3) single-family residential subdivision of 150 homes.

William Diehl, an attorney representing the applicants, said the homes would be at least 2,000 square feet and that the development would include a clubhouse and pool with 30% of the development (roughly 15 acres) set aside for greenspace.

Several neighboring residents, most of them from the Huntington Cove subdivision, spoke out against the request, saying they were opposed to R-3 density encroaching on their neighborhood and worried about the traffic impact in an already-congested area.

Commission member Deborah Lynn made the motion to table, saying the applicants should hold meetings with the residents to talk through their concerns. The motion passed 5-1 with Lanham in opposition.


In other business at its Nov. 18 meeting, the planning commission:

•recommended denial of a request to rezone 12 acres at 1298 Carl-Bethlehem Rd., Winder, with a special use for special events such as weddings, baptisms and family celebrations. Several residents spoke in opposition to the request, noting that the applicants/property owners have already been holding weddings and similar events without the proper zoning and have built several structures and operate businesses on the property without the required permitting and licensing. The property has also been the subject of numerous noise ordinance and code enforcement complaints, residents said. The applicants did not appear before the panel for the public hearing. The BOC will hold its own public hearing and vote on the request Dec. 14.

•recommended approval of a request to rezone and change the future land-use map designation for 26.85 acres at 570 Atlanta Hwy., Winder, to allow for commercial truck and trailer parking. Kaloyau Masiuov, representing the applicants, said there would be 250 truck and trailer spaces. The requests will go before the BOC at its Dec. 14 meeting for another public hearing and final decision.


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