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Annexation request approved
Stipulations placed on food plant expansion
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A highly contested plot of land adjacent to the Gold Creek Foods plant is part of Dawsonville - but with stipulations.

The City Council voted 2-1, with Mike Sosebee recusing himself due to a potential conflict of interest, to approve the annexation Monday.

However, instead of receiving the requested Restricted Industrial Commercial District designation, the plot is zoned AP, or Annexed Property.

Sosebee's son is Mark Sosebee, owner of the chicken processing facility.

This means that the property, which includes a company-owned home, is annexed under the zoning designated by the county.

In this case, the zoning will stay as Vacation Cottage Restricted, meaning the only improvements that can be made to the property are for residential purposes. The property will stay AP for one year.

According to Michael Sheets, vice president of operations, the plant most likely intends to use the property as cold storage or parking.

The topic for annexation and rezoning first surfaced before at a planning commission meeting April 15. The city council first heard it on May 6.

The rezoning was tabled at the planning commission meeting due to a request for additional information to address residents' concerns about noise and air pollution.

During a public hearing and second reading at the council meeting, a spokesman from Gold Creek Foods and concerned residents who live in the area spoke for and against the plans.

Sheets said the plant has plans to address the neighbors' concerns.

"We plan to put up a row of Leyland cypress [trees] around the property. We have a quote from a local landscaper," he said. "Within just a few years, the trees could be 20-30 feet tall. We're doing that regardless."

Sheets noted he has worked with Gold Creek for just two and a half years and had just learned about possible issues.

"As soon as I became aware of an issue, I began to look for a way to address it," he said. "Since that time, I have gotten a quote to have Leyland cypresses around that area of the property and that back area for the new truck parking lot."

Nearby residents were sympathetic to Gold Creek's expansion, but tired of the constant irritants.

"Nobody chooses to live next to a chicken plant. Our property is worth nothing. Nobody would buy it," Rhonda Whitmire said. "This odor smells like dead chickens. It smells like blood. It's sickening. Had I known that there would be a chicken plant next to my home, I would not have moved there."

Whitmire said that when she originally moved to the area, there was no plant, nor any talks of industry in her back yard.

"We were here first and we weren't aware that it was even going up," she said. "One day, all of a sudden there was a chicken processing plant behind our home. And now it's growing into my home.

"I don't want a parking lot in my back yard. They would actually have to cut trees down to make that lot instead of putting them up."

Neighbor Billy Singleton said the noise is a constant battle, but one he's getting too tired to fight.

"There are at least 12 or 15 trailers parked right behind my house. There is constantly the sound of trailers and refrigerator units just clanging and roaring all night," he said. "It's just made it not a fit place to live. But they're not going to run me off. I'm too old for that."

Not all of the residents have hard feelings toward the plant. They're just tired of being encroached on.

"We can live with that if we have to," Whitmire said. "I have no problem with the annexation part. I have no problems with Gold Creek Foods and Lord knows I have no problems with Mark Sosebee. We just don't want to feel like we're being pushed out of our home so they can have a business."

It is their hope that the city council can do something to help alleviate these issues.

"I'm not even comfortable with the approval of the annexation at this point, without making sure Gold Creek Foods is in compliance with existing ordinances," Councilwoman Angie Smith said. "I feel like it is our duty to help with what has already been done.

"To see people speak today about their lives having been sorely effected to the detriment bothers me extremely. To know that it happened in the city limits and to look at what used to be a home now no longer - I'm not comfortable going forward with this at all. If there are problems at [the] Gold Creek property that already exists in the city limits, we need to fix that first before taking on more issues," she added.

Councilman Chris Gaines agreed with Smith.

"I concur with Angie, but my reasoning for allowing the annexation is that they then fall under our ordinances," he said. "By making it AP, it has to sit exactly as annexed. No improvements can be done to the property - at least not for commercial usage. That will prevent, for the time being, any more commercial detriment to surrounding property."