A developer’s request to change the zoning conditions for a planned multi-family residential development to the east of the Barrow Crossing Shopping Center was struck down by the Winder City Council Tuesday, May 4.

And while the developer can still build a residential community at the site under conditions granted last summer, the council’s decision may have quashed the goal of building close to 350 townhomes there.

The council originally voted in August to approve a request by developer Chris Maddox and the other property owners to rezone 67 acres at 399 Carl-Bethlehem Rd. to the south of Highway 316 in order to build 300 apartment units, 99 townhomes and several amenities. But the applicants have since switched gears and have aimed to develop the property with 349 for-sale townhomes and no apartments, citing residential market demand. As a result, they sought two primary changes — relief from a previous condition requiring a large, 5,000-square-foot clubhouse next to a planned swimming pool, with plans instead to build two pools with smaller cabanas, and a variance reducing the required front-yard and side-yard setbacks from 35 to 13 feet.

The variance would have resulted in 25 feet of distance between the front of each building and the back side of the sidewalks and would have made the development more in keeping with a traditional townhome community, according to Shane Lanham, the attorney representing the applicants. Lanham has said that without the variance, the developer would face hardships in being able to build all 349 townhome units in what he has described as topographically challenging site.

But councilman Travis Singley, who was joined in support of his motion to deny by council members Kobi Kilgore, Chris Akins and Sonny Morris, said he could not go along with the large reduction in the required setbacks, citing public safety concerns raised by the fire and police departments.

“I’ve done a lot of due diligence on this and gone back and forth,” Singley said. “…When you reduce the setbacks, it creates units that are closer together when it comes to a fire situation. And there’s also a concern from the police and fire departments about the amount of on-street parking.”

But Lanham and the applicants had proffered additional conditions that would have required two-car garages for each townhome unit and the establishment of a mandatory homeowners’ association that would have restricted on-street parking.

Those particular issues were not addressed in the original conditions attached to the project in August, said councilwoman Holly Sheats, who voted against Singley’s motion along with councilman Jimmy Terrell, adding that the city requires only one-car garages for townhomes under the current ordinance. City administrator Mandi Cody reminded the council they could not legally deny the request Tuesday and simultaneously attach retroactive conditions to what they approved in August.

“I’m trying to weigh what they were going to do (against) what they’re proposing to do now,” Sheats said. “They’re offering more (conditions) than the original list. So if we don’t approve this, they could build as many townhomes as they could fit in with one-car garages.”

It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday which direction the applicants would go following the council’s decision, but the project has drawn concerns over traffic in an increasingly-congested area and from the Barrow County School System about the amount of additional bedrooms and children an all-townhome development of roughly 350 units might bring.

COUNCIL APPROVES REZONING FOR GAS STATION NEAR PROPOSED ROUNDABOUT

In a split vote Tuesday, the council approved requests to rezone and grant a conditional use for a 1.4-acre tract at Jefferson Highway (Highway 11) and Amherst Drive, where a convenience store with gas pumps is proposed to be built.

The vote was 4-3 with Mayor David Maynard breaking the tie in favor of the request. Akins and Terrell, who voted against the request along with Sheats, said they had concerns about a traffic circle that the Georgia Department of Transportation has plans for at the Highway 11/53 split and is aiming to put out to bid next summer.

“(The roundabout) could change and get even bigger in years to come,” Akins said, “and until we see that in full, we’re basically shooting ourselves in the foot with DOT (by approving the request).”

Sheats said she had concerns about granting the B-2 commercial zoning to allow for higher-intensity uses, but Singley, who voted in favor of the request, contended that B-1 uses allowed under the current zoning of the property would also substantially add to the traffic issues.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the council:

•approved first reading of an unfit buildings ordinance aimed at giving the city more enforceability and measures to deal with blighted structures.

•approved a conditional-use request for the manufacturing of ammunition for small pistols and rifles at 47 Polite Rd.

•approved event-permit requests submitted by the Winder Downtown Business Association and Winder Downtown Development Authority for the 2021 Summer Concert Series. The concerts will be held June 5, July 3 and Aug. 7, from 7-10 p.m. at The Plaza at Jackson. The council also approved alcohol consumption in the concert zone.

•approved an event-permit request by the YMCA of Georgia’s Piedmont for the Summer’s End Road Race on Aug. 14. The events will begin at 7 a.m. at the Historic Barrow County Courthouse on North Broad Street, run along Woodlawn Avenue to near Northeast Georgia Medical Center-Barrow, back down North Broad and end at the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Porter Street.

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