Plans for a motorsports country club in western Dawson County drew the blessing of Dawsonville’s planning board Monday night.
The board voted 3-2 to recommend 152 acres off Duck Thurmond Road be rezoned to industrial commercial from agricultural.
The nonbinding recommendation next goes to the Dawsonville City Council, which is scheduled to consider the proposal Feb. 2.
Jeremy Porter’s project calls for a Le Mans-style driving course nearly 3 miles long with straightaways nearly 2,000 feet in length, as well as garages and clubhouse. Plans also include shops and retail space, as well as bike, car and kart rental space.
City planning staff had favored the plan with several stipulations, among them limited hours of operation, sound buffers, guest limits and a full-time, on-site medical technician.
The planning board agreed to those recommendations, and also required the developer conduct a professional sound and noise study and submit all plans at least a week before the city council meeting.
“I expect it to be immediately tabled (by the city council) due to the stipulations placed on it by the planning commission,” said City Administrator Kim Cornelison, adding that Porter likely will need more time to meet the requirements.
Porter was pleased with the decision, saying that he will do what the planning board has asked.
Claire Sharp, chairwoman of the planning commission, cast the deciding vote Monday night in the 3-2 decision that drew an overflow crowd to council chambers at the Dawsonville Municipal Complex.
Duane Roof and B.J. Farley voted against the measure, with Pam Bragg and Jimmy Castleberry in favor.
Roof said he agreed the project would be beneficial to both the city and the county, but doesn’t like its location.
The vote came more than a month after the planning board tabled Porter’s request after attorneys for an adjacent property owner argued the proposal required a Development of Regional Impact Study.
Just hours before the Dec. 22 meeting, Porter submitted a new site plan that eliminated the development’s residential component, which would have called for the impact study.
Richard Wingate, an attorney for West and Helen Hamryka, who own a 70-acre horse farm across from the proposed site on Duck Thurmond, said the board’s decision Monday may lead to a lawsuit.
Wingate maintained that amending the zoning to industrial commercial is unconstitutional because it is inconsistent with the city’s stated goals and does not adhere to the city’s comprehensive plan.
He also said his clients will seek legal compensation for the nuisance brought on their horse boarding and training facility.
“Noise pollution from the project will have a massive effect on their business and will result in an unquestionable loss to them,” he said.
For the past few months, opposition has grown from nearby property owners to homeowner groups with memberships stretching to Lake Lanier.
Cindy Brookshire, president of a local citizens group, lives about three miles from the proposed development. Monday night, she asked the commission to consider a number of provisions, including a comprehensive noise and impact study, before making a decision on the rezoning.
She also requested the city ask Porter to supply financial disclosures of backer and investors and post a performance bond to guarantee “the city the means to restore the site to its original or near original condition if the project fails.”
Porter said he has already made 18 concessions, including agreeing to move a portion of the development at a cost of more than $500,000.
Porter added the money collected from investors since October is being held in escrow.
“We can almost pay cash with the memberships we’ve collected,” he said, adding the venture is a private business and should not be required to produce financial disclosures.
Preliminary estimates released by the Development Authority of Dawson County indicate the development could bring in as much as $4 million in tax revenue to the county in the next eight to 10 years.
The development could also bring dozens of new jobs to the area.
Steve Caldwell, who lives on Cleve Wright Road, presented the commission with 181 signatures he collected in a three-day period in support of the project.
“Jobs and revenue coming to this county is a plus, is a win for everybody,” he said.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.