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Residents oppose Crystal Falls rezoning plans
County planning commission recommends denial of new golf community master plan
A-Crystal Falls pic.JPG
Fay Bohlayer, who lives adjacent to the Crystal Falls development, speaks against a proposed rezoning during a Feb. 19 Dawson County Planning Commission meeting. - photo by Allie Dean

Originally updated: Feb. 27, 2019, 5:11 p.m.

A rezoning request that would allow for smaller lot sizes in the Crystal Falls Lake & Golf community will go before the Dawson County Board of Commissioners March 21 with a recommendation of denial from the county planning commission.

The planning commission voted 5-0 to recommend denial in the presence of over 100 incensed property owners who live around the lake community in the southwest corner of the county, despite a recommendation from the county planning staff that the rezoning be passed.

Jim King, representing the owners of the property, presented the proposed rezoning of 1,038.46 acres from RSR, or Residential Sub Rural, to RPC, or Residential Planned Community.

With the current zoning, the property owners could build 1,038 homes with one home per acre. The proposed plans are to have an ultimate buildout of 1,012 homes at the same density, just smaller lot sizes. 

In 2002, the property owners submitted a master plan to the county that specified plans for 422 lots on septic tanks, with the rest of the property designated for future development.

They then developed the golf course and part of the community in 2005, but since 2005, the owners have only sold five homes, according to King. He said the owners are losing money at an alarming rate due to the cost of upkeep of the golf course.

“Maintenance of a golf course is extremely expensive, and (the owners) have informed me that they have been losing well over $1 million a year trying to keep the golf course open and running,” King said.

To try to solve the problem, King said the property owners have proposed a first phase of development to contain an approximately 300-home neighborhood that will be age-targeted for those 55 and older. The plans show homes on smaller lot sizes, which will not change the density but create more undisturbed green space in that portion of the development.

“The comprehensive plan specifically calls out this property, says ‘in the southwest corner of Dawson County, the planned residential community will not exceed one unit per acre,’ so we meet that requirement,” King said. “We’re going from acre lots to smaller lots, in exchange providing open space, meaningful areas of open space.”

The change will help the property owners target their marketing toward seniors, and the smaller, maintenance-free outdoor spaces should be part of that appeal, according to King. Landscaping and outdoor spaces will be maintained by a common maintenance association. 

According to the application, amenities will be added to the existing club including tennis courts, bocce, pickle ball, shuffleboard and an Olympic size pool and clubhouse. An on-site wastewater plant will be constructed and then maintained by Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, so the new development can utilize sanitary sewer and avoid the septic systems that can lead to long term contamination of the lake, which is used as a drinking water reservoir by Cherokee County.

Three more phases will complete the build out of the 1,012 total homes.

“I realize it is a shocker for those people when you say 1,000 homes, but you have to understand, this is not a new development; this is an existing development that is just getting built out, and my client has chosen to go on and master the entire development instead of just a piece of it, so that you know what will happen in the future,” King said.

King said he estimates about 50 homes will be completed each year.

Several property owners living around Crystal Falls spoke against the development, referencing the potential impact of increased traffic, the impact of a wastewater treatment plant on the golf course and the reservoir, construction times and proximity to homes outside the subdivision, among many others.

Opponents included longtime resident Fay Bohlayer, who moved to the area in 1985 to build a house and horse farm. Bohlayer said the buildout would destroy the tranquility of the area.

“Crystal Falls proposes to insert a radically different community into our farming neighborhood,” Bohlayer said. “They propose a high density, tiny lot communities, with a targeted but not limited to the 55 and older set.”

Martha Carleton, who lives on 30 acres on Kelly Bridge Road, also said she was against the development.

“The danger to our farming community would be drastically increased because of high density subdivisions coming in. Who is to say that another development won’t do the same, especially when the precedent is set,” Carleton said. “This subdivision was a failure in the first place, as only five homes were built since 2002, because no one wanted to move out that far, and they were way overpriced for the area, because there were no services or amenities in the area.”

The county planning department has recommended several stipulations should the rezoning be approved, including making improvements to Cowart Road and improving internal mobility within the development.
The board of commissioners will have the final say on the rezoning in a meeting to be held at 6 p.m. March 21 in the second floor assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center.