A request — rejected by the Barrow County Board of Commissioners last fall — to rezone land in unincorporated Hoschton for a large mixed-use development of apartments, townhomes and commercial space will be reconsidered by the board next month under a settlement agreement between the county and the developer and property owner.
Following a closed session at the end of its meeting Tuesday night, July 13, to discuss pending litigation, the board approved the terms of a settlement agreement with Ridgeline Land Planning and the Stone Living Trust that calls for the county to reconsider a request to rezone and change the county’s future land-use map designation for 53.2 acres at 1308 Lec Stone Rd., about a mile south of the intersection of highways 211 and 124.
Developer Holt Persinger with Ridgeline Land Planning sought the rezoning last year in order to build 280 apartment units, 158 townhomes and set aside roughly 8.5 acres of the property for 130,000 square feet of commercial space. The BOC voted 5-2 during a contentious public hearing in October to deny the request, following along with the recommendation of the county’s planning commission.
A large contingent of area residents were strongly opposed to the proposed development with their concerns ranging from the impact it would have on traffic in the area, to stormwater issues and a potential negative effect on their property values. The group packed the board’s meeting chambers with signs indicating opposition to the development, cheered boisterously for comments from those opposed and booed the attorney who was representing Persinger during the public hearing. Persinger’s attorney argued before the board that the request was an issue of property rights and that the board would not be just in allowing strong public resistance to control its decision.
TERMS OF AGREEMENT
The developer and property owners, who are under contract for the sale of the property, filed suit against the county and the parties have agreed to stay the litigation while the requests are reconsidered by the board. The developer is also seeking a variance on stream buffer setback requirements, from 100 feet to 50 feet.
Because “contract zoning” is not allowed in Georgia, the county’s agreement to reconsider does not guarantee that the board will approve the applicants’ requests. If it does, the plaintiffs have agreed to file for dismissal of the suit within 35 days of the decision. If the requests are not approved, they reserve the right to resume the litigation.
If the requests are approved, they would likely come with 19 conditions. Some of the key ones include:
•that a traffic study be prepared by a registered engineer in Georgia and submitted to the county’s planning department, and that the developer must comply with any and all recommendations, standards and requirements set by the county and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
•that the owner/developer dedicate right of way necessary to “safely realign” the intersection of Highway 211 and Freeman Johnson Road.
•that the commercial component of the development not include any mini-warehouses or storage units or “grocery stores smaller than 30,000 square feet.”
•that the residential portion of the development have restricted gate access.
•that the attached residential units be a minimum of 1,800 heated square feet with no vinyl siding.
•that there be a mandatory homeowners’ association and that the residential streets be privately owned and maintained.
•that there be amenities for residents — including a pool, clubhouse, fitness center, walking trails and open space.
The new terms and conditions will not be put before the planning commission, but will go straight to the BOC for an Aug. 10 public hearing and vote, county attorney Angie Davis said.
That public hearing, set for 6 p.m., will be advertised in The Barrow News-Journal.