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City will vote on Howser Mill development April 22
Council member Mark French in opposition to zoning, variance approval
City hall

The Dawsonville City Council held a public hearing Monday night and voted to postpone a vote on a 172-unit development proposed near the corner of Howser Mill Road and Hwy. 53. 

Another public hearing and potential vote will be held beginning at 5:30 p.m. April 22 at city hall. 

The city’s planning commission voted earlier this month to recommend denial of the rezoning and variance requested by Jim King of Ensite Civil Consulting on behalf of the property owner.

King is asking for a rezoning of the 38.58-acre tract of land at 592 Hwy. 53 West from R-3, or single family residential with a density of three units per acre, to RPC, or Residential Planned Community.

The maximum density allowed in an RCP zoning is 4 units per acre, and King has also requested a variance to allow an increased density of 4.5 units per acre in order to develop 31 quadraplexes and 48 townhomes marketed toward seniors.

The development would also include amenities including a clubhouse, Bocci court, pickleball court, outdoor patios and walking trails.

According to a letter written Feb. 1 by city zoning staff, the parcel was rezoned in 2004 from R-2 to R-3 with no stipulations, which means the property owner could build a 114-lot subdivision under the current zoning.

The planning commission voted to recommend denial based on density issues, the inability for anyone to control the age of the residents and traffic concerns. 

The city council heard from several residents of the county and city March 18 who were opposed to the development for similar reasons. 

Dava Hudgins, who lives in the northern part of county, said that the intersection of Howser Mill Road and Hwy. 53 is already congested without the addition of a new development. 

“There are subdivisions on Howser Mill that are already backing up traffic there and it’s already a congested area,” she said. “To add in this many more units or to increase it to the new amount that they’re requesting is going to really make that a dangerous intersection and I don’t want another child in this county to wreck, to be injured, or to be killed because of poor planning where the road is concerned.”

Linda Lockert, who lives off Howser Mill Road, said she did not approve of the density of the proposed development. 

“The reason why I came here was because I came from a small town which became kind of overloaded because it was next to a little town called Orlando,” she said. “I see things happening here that happened to my small town. It’s not a good fit. The density is going to be horrible.” 

Other residents mentioned environmental impacts, setbacks, noise, the amount of buildable land on the property and the impact to adjacent property owners. 

Planning Commissioner Anna Tobolski also spoke and had similar concerns about how the development would impact traffic, that the age-targeting element could change at any time and that the density was not compatible with neighboring properties. 

City Attorney Dana Miles addressed Tobolski’s concerns about the neighborhood not being age-restricted and only age-targeted, meaning that the developers would market the homes to those 55 and over, but could not prevent someone younger from living there. 

“Under the Housing for Older Persons Act, it’s a federal law, there can be a requirement that (the council) could put in by zoning ordinance as a stipulation if you saw fit to rezone this property to restrict the housing, not just to marketing it to 55 and older, but to require that the residents be 55 and least 80 percent of the residences must be owned by and lived in by someone 55 and older,” Miles said. 

Mayor Mike Eason said there wasn’t much the city could do in regard to the state of the roads because the city does not own them. 

“A couple of those things we don’t really have a lot of control over because that’s a state highway and the Howser Mill intersection is a state-county road so we can’t do much about that,” he said. “We’ve asked for some support from them and we’ve asked our (Department of Transportation) operations people to look at that as a high-risk area.” 

Council member Mike French said he believes the council should uphold the planning commission's decision. 

“In the event that this community were presented as a 55 and older community, within 10 years you run the potential for a number of those lots to almost be non-taxable due to the homestead senior exemption,” he said. “Number two, by increasing the city population without seeing a tax from the city, meaning that we’ve got to provide additional services to a greater population with no more cut in our sales tax money, I’m concerned that we wouldn’t be able to afford to do that.”

Caleb Phillips said that he hadn’t made his mind up yet, but that he didn’t think the current zoning nor the proposed zoning was the best fit for the property. 

“I don’t think they meet the criteria to get 4.5, but if you went to 4, and could get some restrictions on buffers, like not letting them come out on Howser Mill, 55 and older; if you could make those stipulations it would be better than the R-3 with them coming out on Howser Mill with 20-foot property line,” he said. “As it is right now, they can build 20 foot from every property line and the city can’t really do anything to stop it. They can do that today; so it would be better to have a little bit more denser population but have a lot of stipulations, and one of those stipulations could be a traffic study.”