The Barrow County Planning Commission has recommended the rezoning of property on Highway 211 just outside the Winder city limits that would allow for the building of a residential subdivision with about 200 single-family homes — about 50 fewer than the company looking to develop the property was seeking.

After more than an hour of discussion at its Thursday, Sept. 19, meeting, the panel voted 4-0 — three members were absent — to recommend rezoning 86.8 acres of a 96-acre tract at 627 Hwy. 211 NW, Winder, from Agricultural to R-2 Master Planned Development. The recommendation now heads to the county board of commissioners for a public hearing and vote on Oct. 8.

Lawrenceville-based Corridor Development has sought a rezoning of the property for several months and initially proposed rezoning it to R-3 Residential in order to build 182 single-family detached homes as well as 128 single-family townhomes. But after nearby residents raised concerns about the scope of the project — the potential traffic impact and the potential effect townhomes could have on their property values — the planning commission tabled the case in July and the developer withdrew that request in August and resubmitted to rezone the property to R-3 and have a special use for a master planned development.

Corridor’s plans presented Thursday to the commission called for 247 single-family homes at 2.9 units per acre. However, at the recommendation of the county’s planning staff, the panel recommended the R-2 zoning, which allows up to 2.3 units per acre. That would allow a maximum of about 200 homes to be built on the property.

The property’s current owner, Chris Maddox, has proposed an amendment to the county’s future land-use map that would designate the property for residential development. It currently falls under the West Winder Bypass character area (which calls for primarily light industrial and commercial uses), but Maddox and the developer believe residential use would be appropriate.

The BOC will have a public hearing and vote on Maddox’s request Oct. 8, the same night it will hear the rezoning request.

Dan Schultz, the county’s director of planning and community development, told the commission the property is surrounded by Rural Neighborhood and Suburban Neighborhood properties. Suburban Neighborhood carries the higher allowable density (up to 2.3 units per acre) and would be more appropriate than allowing R-3 at 2.9 units per acre, Schultz said.

“Ultimately, we are excited about the development and the potential to bring a community to Barrow County,” said Shane Lanham, an attorney representing Corridor Development. “There’s a lot of energy here.”

The recommended rezoning comes with more than a dozen conditions, a mix of staff and planning commission recommendations and conditions offered by Corridor.

Among the planning commission’s recommended changes was to have a 50-foot setback (an addition of roughly 30 feet) from Highway 211 to the property line.

Commission member Deborah Lynn advocated for the increased setback as a pre-planning measure for the widening of Highway 211 to four lanes, which the Georgia Department of Transportation has in its long-term plans.

“Common sense tells us (the highway) will eventually be widened,” Lynn said, adding that construction of the nearby West Winder Bypass has encroached on properties, creating an “eye sore.”

“I’d hate to see an entrance put in, the homeowners buy in, and then, one day, it’s just torn down,” she said.

Another condition — offered by commission member Vince Cain and agreed to by the present members — would require that single-story homes be a minimum of 1,800 heated square feet and that two-story homes be a minimum of 2,200 heated square feet.

Those would be larger than what Corridor was requesting. The developer offered that no more than 20 percent of the homes would be 1,600 square feet, while 40 percent would be 1,800 square feet and 40 percent would be 2,000 square feet.

Lanham said the developer wanted a variety of sizes to attract younger homebuyers as well as seniors and “empty nesters” who may be looking to downsize.

The house size was a point of contention between the panel members. Lynn noted that the county has been approving subdivisions with the condition that homes be a minimum of 2,000 heated square feet and that condition was recommended by staff. Member David Dyer said he preferred a variety of sizes, so long as the quality of the home was high.

“I’m not sure you always get the desired result from minimum square footage,” Dyer said. “…I’d rather have the ability to choose options.”

The panel also recommended a condition that Corridor submit a more detailed plan for its amenities area. Lanham said that rather than typical swimming pool/tennis amenities, the developer wants to utilize the existing pond on the property and the greenspace around it as a “natural/passive amenity” while incorporating a “network of walking trails.”

As part of that condition, the panel wants more information on whether the existing home on the property could be converted into a clubhouse.

“We haven’t done a thorough inspection” of the home, Lanham said. “But if the opportunity is there, it makes sense.”

The BOC’s Oct. 8 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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