Annexation request

The Winder City Council is set to consider a revised annexation and rezone request for more than 200 acres south of Atlanta Highway and west of Pine Hills Golf Course for a proposed 240-home residential subdivision — six months after it denied the original request. 

A proposed large residential subdivision just east of the Winder city limits is coming back before the council this week — six months after the council shot down proposed land annexation and rezoning requests that would have initiated the development. But despite the applicants cutting back the proposed number of homes by more than a third, the city’s planning board has again recommended denial of the requests.

As part of its new meeting schedule for 2021, the city council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, in a work session and will hold public hearings on requests by MMK, LLC, and Sullins Engineering to annex seven parcels totaling more than 200 acres south of Atlanta Highway and between Pine Hills Golf Course and Russell Cemetery Road into the city and rezone the bulk of the land to single-family high-density residential in order to build a proposed 240-lot subdivision at 1.57 units per acre. The remaining 45 acres would be rezoned to general commercial.

The applicants last summer proposed a 387-lot subdivision and “light industrial development,” but the proposal drew significant pushback from council members as well as county government leaders over the potential impact on traffic in the area and concerns from county school officials over the strain new homes could cause the district as well as the projected price point of the homes.

The land is currently located within the county’s rural reserve character area, which would limit the developers to only about a third of the homes under the original plan, which the applicants said last summer would not be economically feasible. Future land uses under the county’s character area are recommended to be agriculture, forestry and “very low-density, detached single-family residences” with a maximum of one dwelling unit per two acres), including residential subdivisions that “protect natural features and set aside communal open space.”

The land is also adjacent to the Suburban Neighborhood character area within the city limits. That area’s intent is to “preserve established neighborhoods and create quality new residential development that is consistent with surrounding suburban densities; and are suitable where suburban residential development exists or is likely to, given the presence of sewer (or the potential for sewer expansion) and existing residential zoning. Future development is recommended to be consistent with single-family homes at low to moderate densities. Suburban Neighborhood areas include the perimeter of Winder and adjacent unincorporated areas.”

Julie Sellers, an attorney for the applicants, wrote in a letter to the city that the site plan has been “significantly modified” following input from the city last summer.

“There is a demand for additional housing in the Winder area,” Sellers wrote. “The property has historically been under-utilized and largely undeveloped. Having vacant property does not benefit the county or city and instead creates a loss of potential increase for the government’s tax base. In addition, the housing demand in the area is underserved with a lack of new construction homes.”

At the Dec. 17 planning board meeting, Sellers said the homes would be built on larger lots and have a minimum of 1,800 square feet for single-family ranch-style homes and a minimum of 2,200 square feet for two-story homes, with all homes including a minimum 500-square-foot, two-car garage. The development would also include a community recreation area that would consist of a pool, community lawn and children’s play area.

The city’s planning staff recommended approval of the requests with several attached conditions — including that the developer extend, upgrade and provide water and sewer infrastructure connections to the properties in compliance with city regulations and remove all dilapidated buildings and materials being stores outside within 60 days of the annexation.

Still, planning board members recommended denial of the request, contending that they did not have enough information on the revised proposal, including input from the county and school district.

After the public hearing and work session on the requests and other agenda items, the council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12 for its voting session. While the council has held work sessions on the first Monday of each month and voting sessions the next night, starting this year, the body has switched to holding their work sessions the Thursday before the first Tuesday of each month. Those dates were pushed back a week in January due to the New Year’s holiday.

Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to take place at the Winder Community Center, 113 East Athens St., but people can also join the meeting by phone or via Zoom. The toll-free numbers to call are 877-853-5257 or 888-475-4499. The meeting ID is 815 4100 4194, and the password is 961614. The Zoom link is available on the meeting agenda on the city’s website.

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