After a handful of appearances before the Winder City Council, developers have won approval to rezone roughly 70 acres of land on the northeastern end of town to build a residential subdivision fronted by commercial buildings near Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow and the future Publix-anchored shopping center at the intersection of highways 11 and 53.

The city council Tuesday, June 8, voted 4-2 in favor of a request by Barrow Investment Group to rezone three separate parcels at 416 and 436 Gainesville Hwy. with the intention of building a 103-home subdivision called Stone Haven and eight commercial parcels, which developer Tripp Reynolds said would be marketed to businesses. The planned project expands on an initial application, where Reynolds sought to rezone 49.4 acres to build 78 homes and have commercial outparcels, but he has since acquired around 21 additional acres within the past few months and is planning everything as one project, he said.

The council had originally postponed a vote on the initial rezoning request in December over concerns with how the project would mesh with other planned construction in the area, including the Publix shopping center and a roundabout slated by the Georgia Department of Transportation for the 11/53 split. The property was part of a proposed project by another developer in 2018 that would have included up to 220 homes on 70 acres, but the council denied the rezoning request then, largely over traffic concerns.

Councilmen Chris Akins and Sonny Morris voted against the request Tuesday, with Morris saying he’d like to see the entire property be residential.

Other council members disagreed, echoing Reynolds’ thoughts that it would be unattractive to homeowners to have homes right along Highway 53 and that the future commercial buildings would be an appropriate buffer to block out traffic noise.

Akins’ opposition was more rooted in the uncertainty of what other commercial uses will be included with the Publix shopping center.

“I do feel like commercial is the right application; I just personally don’t feel that it’s the right fit at this time,” Akins said during the council’s June 3 work session. “We don’t have the plans for across the street (the Publix property) yet.”

Reynolds has said he does not plan to build any commercial buildings, but will instead sell the parcels with the intention that the eventual commercial uses will complement the neighborhood, the Publix development and/or the hospital.

“I would hate to not utilize the 1,500 feet of frontage for commercial use,” Reynolds said. “We just feel like that’s the highest and best use of the property.”

The council’s approval of the rezoning comes with seven staff- and city planning board-recommended conditions, though it did strike — at Reynolds’ request — an eighth condition that would have required the internal streets in the subdivision to be privately owned and maintained. Because the subdivision will not be gated, Reynolds said the streets would be open to the public and requiring private maintenance could be dissuade prospective homebuyers. Councilwoman Holly Sheats made the motion to approve the rezoning requests and strike that condition.

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