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95 apartment units on Hwy. 53 move forward
Elliott Road developments stalled by planning board
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During their Nov. 15 meeting, the planning commission unanimously voted to recommend approval of the rezoning for 95 planned apartment units and a commercial business on Hwy. 53 East, and also voted to recommend denial of the rezoning of a plot of land behind the Tractor Supply that would hold 177 single-family homes.

Planning recommendations will go before the board of commissioners during the Dec. 13 voting session, at which time they will approve or deny the developer's rezoning requests.

The rezoning requests were made by Bill Evans Jr., a residential real estate developer from Dekalb County who owns the three properties in question. The applications were filed on July 8 but have been tabled several times by the planning commission to allow more time for public input and revisions.

Apartments
In the first of two victories for Evans, the planning commission unanimously voted to approve 95 apartment units to be located on 15.83 acres on Hwy. 53 between Slack Auto Parts and the Farmington Creek senior living community.

The land is currently being used as a rental trailer park.

If approved, the rezoning will make it so that the land, which is currently zoned as residential agricultural, will be zoned residential multi family.

The apartments were recommended for approval because they are similar to apartments already in the area, specifically the Dawson Forest Apartments located to the west of the property and the senior living community to the south.

The commission voted to recommend the rezoning be approved with the stipulation that all traffic come out of the complex onto Beartooth Parkway, and if that was not possible that they consult with the Department of Transportation. The stipulation was proposed by commission member Jeff Looper, who said that rerouting would help to alleviate traffic coming out onto Hwy. 53.

Evans said that he and his team had not yet thought of that as a solution, but were open to it.
The county plans to make improvements to Beartooth Parkway next year using LMIG funds that were recently applied for by the county, due to both its current state and predictions that the road will be a much used cut through for people avoiding the Ga. 400 intersection.

Single Family Units
The item that caused the biggest controversy at the Nov. 15 meeting was the proposed 177 housing units the developers wish to build on a 57.16 acre plot of land located behind the Tractor Supply near Elliott Road.

Since the plans for the housing were announced in August following the submission of rezoning applications, a group of homeowners in the area of the new development have been up in arms to try and alter the plans.

The original request for the property included 240 units of townhomes with additional amenities such as a clubhouse and swimming pool. After several meetings between the developers and the group of concerned homeowners over the last few months, the number of units proposed has dropped to 177 single family detached homes, which would be a density of about 3 units an acre.

The residents, however, are still not satisfied. Ten people spoke against the application at the Nov. 15 meeting, most of them living on or in the vicinity of Elliott Road.

One of the speakers, Rhonda Goodwin, who lives on Elliott Road and belongs to the core group of homeowners opposing the development, said that there were two stipulations she cared most about: there being only one home per acre of land, and a minimum selling price of $350,000.

"The developer did say he revised the plans from 240 to 177 units, but that was mostly due to the fact that they drew in the creek, because they forgot to include it in their first draft," Goodwin said. "The creek took the space of some of the lots, but the lot size did not decrease. I can see absolutely nothing positive for this county that comes out of this type of zoning and development."

Tony Passarello, another member of the core group who lives in the area of Elliott Road, said that traffic was a major concern for the people who have to pull out onto Hwy. 53 every day.
A traffic study was previously commissioned by the developer and the results were given to the county, but Passarello said the study underestimated the impact development would have on traffic in the area.

"Each new home introduces nine car trips per day," Passarello said. "In the future, the potential is there for a traffic increase of 400 percent over what the traffic study suggested."

The planning board voted to recommend denial of the project because of concerns raised by speakers about density and traffic, as well as the parameters of the zoning request not fitting what the developers actually intend.

The land is currently designated residential agricultural, and if approved by the commissioners the rezoning would designate the area as residential multifamily, which falls in line with the future land use plan put together by the county.

However, the RMF designation that the developers are seeking, opponents say, does not include the kind of housing that the developers want to build. Detached single family homes, like those the developer has reduced his plans to accommodate, are not included in the list of acceptable housing types for an RMF zoning.

Planning Director Jason Streetman said that at this point the RMF zoning is a sort of compromise: in order to build fewer, detached homes to satisfy nearby residents but still build a high number of units per acre to satisfy the developer, the RMF zoning would be the best fit.

According to Streetman, in order to move forward the application would have to be approved with the RMF zoning and a stipulation that the developer only build single family detached homes.

Planning Commissioner Vernon Smith did not agree with approving a zoning where the land use ordinance does not include the type of housing the developer intended to build.

"If it's rezoned to RMF he can build anything he wants," Smith said, shortly before he motioned to recommend denial.

The planning commissioners voted unanimously to recommend denial of the application.

If denied by the board of commissioners on Dec. 13 as recommended, the developers would have to either wait to submit a new application or pursue legal action within the court system.

Commercial Business
Planning commissioners also recommended approval of a new commercial highway business located on 3.63 acres of land on Hwy. 53 between the Tractor Supply on the left and Dawson County fire station number 2 on the right.

Because the land is already surrounded by other commercial businesses and no one spoke against the zoning, the commission voted unanimously to recommend that the board of commissioners approve the development.

If approved, the rezoning application would designate the land from its current residential agricultural zoning to a commercial highway business designation, which also falls in line with the county's future land use plan for that property.

According to Bill Evans, who represents the developers, there is no plan yet for what the retail store will be.

"We don't have the faintest idea what we'll do with it," Evans said.