During the Feb. 14 meeting of the Dawsonville Planning Commission, commission members voted to recommend denial of a rezoning request for two tracts of land off of Highway 9 to allow for construction of a new development adjacent to Thunder Ridge.
Corey Guthrie, the civil engineer who presented the proposed layout on behalf of applicant Smith Douglas Homes, said that the applicant is asking to rezone two tracts of land totaling just over 121 acres from R1 districting (Restricted Single Family Residential District) to R3 districting (Single Family Residential District).
According to Guthrie, the tracts of land, which are adjacent to the south of Thunder Ridge development off of Highway 9, would be rezoned to allow for the construction of 236 lots with a density of just under two lots per acre. The proposed units would be homes of a minimum of 1500 square feet, and the development would include open space and amenities for residents.
“We’re proposing over 25 percent open space; over 30 acres is going to be dedicated to green space,” Guthrie said. “We are proposing a nice amenities area with a swimming pool and playground, mail kiosk and parking area. We also recognize that there will be a 20 foot buffer around this community; the layout provides for deeper-than-necessary lots around the perimeter to accommodate such a buffer.”
Guthrie said that the developer had a traffic study performed on the area, and found that the development would require a left turn lane for the proposed entrance on Highway 9, as well as a right-turn deceleration lane. He added that for subdivisions larger than 50 lots, there is a requirement for two entrances.
“The ideal location [for the second entrance] would be a connection into Thunder Ridge, but since we don’t control that connection we’re showing a secondary entrance on Highway 9,” Guthrie said. “Georgia DOT prefers less access points than more because of safety purposes, so the secondary entrance would be predicated on what Georgia DOT would allow or not allow.”
Guthrie added that, for such a large community proposed on a two-lane road, the developer has submitted a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) to see the impact the development will have on the surrounding area. The results of the study have not yet come in.
During the public hearing for the matter, several homeowners who live on roads near to the proposed development came before the planning commission to speak against the rezoning request. Those who spoke voiced concerns about added traffic on Highway 9, the impact on the school system and harm coming to the native flora and fauna.
“You’re gonna destroy Highway 9; it’s a scenic highway and it cannot be widened easily, there’s rivers, there’s houses, there’s rocks,” one Apple Ridge 2 resident said. “The whole purpose of Georgia 400 which was built parallel to it was to have this kind of traffic flow, not highway 9.”
“Every morning I get out on Highway 9 to take my son to school and the traffic there is already unbelievable,” another resident said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like when Thunder Ridge is finished or whatever this may end up being.”
In addition to traffic concerns, residents voiced concerns about the impact that the increased population will have on the school system.
“My daughter is a teacher at Robinson and I know they’re maxed out,” one Apple Ridge 1 resident said. “What are plans for bigger schools with all these plans coming in? These houses are gonna bring families, families are gonna have children and they’re gonna have more children.”
Residents also voiced concerns about water runoff and the effect that the proposed development would have on the native flora and fauna.
“Not only does it encroach on our personal privacy and our chosen way of life, but it is a great threat to the tributaries that run into Shoal Creek and into the Etowah watershed,” another Apple Ridge 1 resident said. “Increased runoff caused by disturbed earth, densely built houses, pavement, cars and lack of trees and their roots will contaminate these creeks and thus change or destroy native plants and wildlife.”
“This is gonna bring in almost 600 more school children; that’s the size of one of our schools,” one resident said.
Members of the planning commission also questioned the impact that the development will have on traffic
“I’ve looked at the traffic study in depth and I definitely think that there’s some major traffic concerns there,” Post 4 Commissioner Anna Tobolski said. “I do realize the DRI isn’t back yet; my biggest thing when I look at this project is it’s right next door is Thunder Ridge.”
Tobolski added that an important part of the commission’s decision is to take into account the concerns voiced by all of the residents of the City of Dawsonville.
“I sort of look at our decision based off of we’re supposed to be guided by… all of the City of Dawsonville residents and what they saw that land for [after the city’s 2018 comprehensive plan] was that they wanted to see larger residential suburban areas,” Tobolski said. “So apart from the traffic part, I think that as much as I appreciate the fact that the developer has went through efforts to lower the density and leave a lot of open space, I still don’t think that that’s what the City of Dawsonville residents as a whole is wanting.”
Post 1 Commissioner Matt Fallstrom agreed with Tobolski’s comments on the rezoning request.
“We are here to follow the comp plan and to move the city of Dawsonville in the direction that the residents have chosen,” Fallstrom said. “There are a lot of questions, but I don’t see the rezone just yet.”
Planning commission members voted unanimously to recommend denial of the rezoning request.
Next, the request will go to a public hearing during the March 7 meeting of the Dawsonville City Council, and the council is scheduled to make a decision on March 21.