County commissioners last week approved a rezoning that has potential to bring a large-scale tourism development to western Dawson.
Speaking on behalf of Clearfork Properties LLC, Chip Pearson described Anders Inn at New Anderson as "a destination resort like no other in Georgia or the Southeast."
Inspired by resorts such as Little St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast and Half Mile Farm in Highland, N.C., Pearson said New Anderson would feature 71 single family cabins, a 12-room mountain inn and resort amenities on 84 acres north of Amicalola Falls State Park on High Shoals Road.
With Gilmer County to the north and east, the property is surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest in an area considered by many to be one of the county's first northern settlements.
"Before there was Dawson County, there was Anderson," Pearson said. "In the early 1800s several dozen families formed the small settlement near what is called Anderson Creek. Nothing remains of Anderson today except the old wagon roadbed ... and an old chimney or two."
It is of these historic foundations and the foundations of other Georgia pioneer families that Anders Inn and New Anderson will be born, according to Pearson.
"I've had this property for about six or seven years now and I'm excited to be able to do something like this," he said. "We think it's a unique project. We're not aware of another one exactly like this in the Southeast."
The property, which has been vacant since the late 1980s or early '90s when it housed a youth camp, was rezoned to residential planned community from residential exurban agricultural in a 3-0 vote by the commission.
Commissioner Jimmy Hamby was not at the meeting.
The commission allowed a variance from the 100-acre requirement for a residential planned community zoning due to the national park bordering the site on all sides.
Commissioner Gary Pichon called the project an ideal development for Dawson County.
"It's totally surrounded so it's not really going to have any development around it in terms of neighbors," he said.
"The intent of this planned unit development, planned community, is basically one of the things I think fits our county and that is outdoor recreation ... to get people to come here and spend their money and not disrupt our lives while they're doing it."
A specific timeframe for the project was not given. Pearson did, however, say resolving issues with access to the property could take up to three years.
"Obviously, the big hurdle here is the forest service road. It's pretty rough, the last mile from the church, he said. "The forest service would like us to relocate the road, the last mile, and abandon the current road."