A year after concerned residents thought the battle over two parcels of land off Hwy. 53 was over, the issue was brought before the Dawson County Planning Commission again last week.
The law firm of Miles Hansford and Tallant presented its requests to rezone two parcels of land from Residential Agricultural to Residential Multi-Family during the Dec. 19 meeting.
The first application hoped to rezone 15.828 acres to create a 95 unit town home community; the second would rezone 59.497 acres to create a 177 home neighborhood. The parcels are located on a busy stretch of road between Beartooth Parkway and where Dawson Forest Road runs into Hwy. 53.
The rezoning requests were met with fierce opposition from concerned residents, many of whom were present during last year’s commission meeting regarding the two properties.
The planning commission voted unanimously to recommend denial for both applications after hearing from many voices from the community.
The decisions were met with wild applause from the audience. Chairman Appointee Emory Dooley said this is just a recommending board and the issue will go before the board of commissioners at its next meeting.
Joshua Scoggins, a lawyer at the firm Miles Hansford and Tallant, represented the property holder Dawson Forest Holdings LLC.
Scoggins said his firm became involved with the applications towards the end of the process last year and noticed some legal deficiencies. After consulting with the county attorney, the Superior Court remanded the two applications back to the county so that the procedural defects could be corrected.
The first parcel up for discussion was the 15.828 acres located on the west side of Hwy. 53 next to Farmington Creek senior neighborhood. Though Scoggins said the 95 town home development is not age-restricted under federal law, it is designed for all intents and purposes to be a senior community.
“The goal is to age-target this project so you don’t put children in schools, you don’t have people driving during peak driving times and we are trying to make a cohesive development with the town home project next door,” said Scoggins.
Elliott Road resident Rhonda Goodwin took issue with the term “age-targeted” used by Scoggins, saying that it was not a legal or zoning term but a developer term used “to divert our attention from the burden that it’s going to create on our school system and our population.”
Goodwin, who said she has lived in Dawson County for 40 years, said the rezoning issue is one that affects all of Dawson County – not just those directly affected by the developments, a sentiment echoed by many residents in attendance.
“Your primary responsibility is to look after the good and welfare of the present citizens,” Hugh Stowers told the commission. “Rezoning this property for high density homes is not going to accomplish those objectives.”
Stowers said he was concerned that the costs of water and sewer, school bus transportation, fire and emergency services, law enforcement, traffic lights and lane construction needed to necessitate the new developments will fall squarely on the current residents.
A prevalent issue brought up during the meeting was the density of the proposed developments. Scoggins said that there would be six town home units per acre on the 15 acre parcel and roughly three units per acre on the 59 acre parcel.
“We have too much open land in Dawson County to be putting three, four, five, six or more homes on a single acre lot,” said lifelong Dawson County resident Mike Miller.
“There’s so much available land further down,” said Betty Lou Pfister, who resides in the Farmington Creek senior neighborhood next to the proposed town home development. “Why they don’t go someplace further out that’s more open – that whole area has so much open land.”
Greg Plank, another Elliott Road resident, opposed the townhome and neighborhood developments, saying that the high density properties would change the overall tradition of the county.
“That tradition is why people want to come here,” said Plank.
Gaye Summerall, who said she moved to Dawson County eight years ago, said she came to the county to find property and quality of life after being dissatisfied with high density residential areas near Atlanta.
“Build those things over in Gwinnett County and all those other counties,” said Summerall. “Leave Dawson County the way it is. If you want to go further north and build it that’s fine, but let this community be the way that it is.”
Residents were heavily concerned with the impact the high density developments would create on the already congested traffic situation.
Pfister voiced her concern over what she said is a dangerous left turn into the proposed townhome development.
“If you’re here trying to make a left turn there, forget it,” Pfister said. “If that’s the only entrance coming in and out of there then the traffic will be enormous there and a very bad area.”
A naysayer who spoke against the developments last year, Tony Passarello too voiced his concerns over the traffic situation during the Dec. 19 meeting. Passarello provided a presentation containing information from a traffic study commissioned in 2016.
He said the building of such a dense residential area would result in the number of ingress and egress points between Dawson Forest Road and Couch Road, increasing from six to nine; multiple traffic signals will be required to mitigate access and safety concerns; and a serious effect on the safety of existing and future local property owners.
“If you approve this request you have opened the flood gate for similar developments which you will not have the horsepower to prevent in the future,' said Stowers.
The next voting session of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 6 p.m Jan. 18 in the Dawson County Government Center assembly room.