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Vote may end battle over plan

Chestatee developer weighs county’s deal

POSTED: January 28, 2009 4:00 a.m.

After more than two years of litigation, developers of the Chestatee community can move forward with plans for a new residential phase, amenities package and bed and breakfast.

  

To do so, however, Chestatee Development Corp. must first agree to several stipulations the Dawson County commission approved Thursday along with the firm’s rezoning and variance requests.

  

The stipulations limit a proposed bed and breakfast to six rooms and allow 23 attached or detached homes with comparable architecture in the Creekside area of the subdivision.

  

A proposed boat storage area could be used only by Chestatee residents and must be heavily screened, according to the stipulations, which also call for an amenities package determined by residents equal in value to three tennis courts, lap pool and cabana.

  

The property, which sits between Nightfire Drive, Ga. 400 and Henry Grady Road, is currently zoned for planned, lakefront and subrural residential development.

  

Chestatee Development sought the revision to the developer’s master plan, which was first submitted in 1997.

  

The request asked for a rezoning to add 23 lots of attached and detached housing units, an expanded amenities area to include three tennis courts, lap pool and cabana, private boat storage and a 32-unit bed and breakfast.

  

Chestatee property owners filled the council chambers at city hall to speak out against the changes and developer, who also asked the county in 2006 to revise the neighborhood’s master plan. That request was denied, which triggered the lawsuit against the county.

  

District 3 Commissioner Mike Connor recused himself from the board’s vote in order to speak as a Chestatee resident opposed to the request.

  

Connor, who received 52 e-mails from opponents of the rezoning, said he was uncomfortable that lawyers for both sides met behind closed doors in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s meeting to try to reach a compromise.

  

The people affected by the negotiations were left out, he said.

  

“I don’t know what’s been negotiated. I don’t know what’s been given and what’s been taken, neither do the rest of residents, nor do all the families that live next to Chestatee,” he said, encouraging the board to deny the rezoning request.

  

Chestatee resident Kay Mango noted the developer has failed over the years to adhere to promises made to residents, including improvements to roads in the community.

  

She also said she believed the developer would exceed the 4 percent commercial restriction in a residential neighborhood with the addition of boat storage, pavilion parking lot and bed and breakfast.

  

Ben Mathes of Parkside Alley in Chestatee said he bought into the neighborhood because he was told it would be a great place to live, with cottages nearby for guests.

  

“Nobody ever said anything about 32 beds in it. That’s a hotel,” he said.

  

No one asked the board to approve the request.

  

Chestatee Development must now decide whether to accept the county’s stipulations for the development or proceed with litigation.

  

“It’s up to the developer at this point to go forward with the lawsuit or accept the county’s stipulations,” said District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon. “I hope we’ve gotten through this. I hope they accept.”

  

Pichon made the motion to approve the request, which passed in a 3-1 vote.

  

“I think it is incumbent upon this group to try ... to not take this to court,” he said.

  

Dawson County Attorney Joey Homans said on Monday the county has spent between $50,000 and 75,000 in legal fees over the conflict.

  

“That’s a rough estimate, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t up to $75,000,” he said.

  

Pichon said the question for him is to find common ground “acceptable to the developers, but also acceptable to a significant number of those in Chestatee.”

  

Homans said he hoped to hear from Chestatee’s attorneys this week.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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