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Construction underway for Dawson County affordable housing, mixed-use village projects
Development 1
The Peaks of Dawsonville apartment complex is expected to be finished in April 2023. - photo by Julia Fechter

Units for an affordable housing complex are taking shape near Ga. 53’s intersection with Ga. 400 in Dawson County.  

The Peaks of Dawsonville apartments are now expected to open in April 2023, said Landbridge Development principal Gary Hammond. 

Supply chain and site work holdups pushed back the completion date, which was originally slated for November 2022. 

The 80 multi-family apartment homes will be located on about 14.3 acres at 65 North 400 Center Lane, behind CVS. 

This story continues below.

Last September, the Development Authority of Dawson County’s board of directors formally approved a resolution for $10 million in tax-exempt bonds to help finance the residential project. The bonds are backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

Prior to that decision, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners renewed their approval for the DADC to move forward with a bond resolution for the apartment complex. 

Landbridge Development, an Atlanta-based firm, proposed the project in spring 2019. The company and Hammond will be part-owners, along with the complex’s limited liability company. Fairway Management Co., who has previously worked with Landbridge, will manage the development’s daily operations. 

Then-DADC chair Tony Passarello called the decision “the first revenue bond we’ve done to help the living-wage housing effort in the county,” and Hammond previously told DCN he was pleased that workers in food, retail and related industries would have the opportunity to live closer to their jobs, cutting down their commute times. 

Hammond told DCN via email that rent and income levels have not yet been set for the Peaks of Dawsonville, and those figures will be evaluated closer to the complex’s projected April 2023 opening, taking into account changes in Area Median Income (“AMI”). 

 

“Also, with our financing, rents do not fluctuate based on household income but are set to be affordable to households at 50% and 60% of AMI,” Hammond said. “Currently, maximum allowable gross rent [including utilities and internet] ranges from $900 to $1,500 per month depending on number of bedrooms, while maximum household income ranges from $34,000 to $57,000 per year depending on household size.”

 

The rents may end up being lower than stated, Hammond added.

Mixed-use project

Crews have started moving dirt for one planned Dawson County development near Dawson Forest Road and Ga. 53, 

Land prep has begun for The Enclave at Dawson Forest, a mixed-use development aimed at senior and younger workforce residents. 


Development 2
The beginning phases of construction are now underway for The Enclave at Dawson Forest subdivision. - photo by Julia Fechter

The project includes a planned 145 semi-attached homes and 15 commercial buildings of various sizes, according to county documents. It is one of multiple new or proposed developments along Dawson Forest Road. 

At their July 15, 2021 meeting, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted to approve two rezones covering four tracts for developer Georgia 400 Industrial Park LLC.

The rezone for the project’s planned housing area, which was approved 3-1, changed 30.48 acres from Residential Agricultural to Residential Multi-Family zoning. District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett cast the opposing vote.


Development 3
Photo submitted to DCN.

The rezone for the business area, which the BOC unanimously approved 4-0, changed 23.11 acres from RA and Commercial Community Business to Commercial Highway Business. 

To the west of the developer’s land is the Walmart. The forthcoming neighborhood is also bordered by Dawson Forest apartments to the northwest; Farmington Creek Apartments to the northeast and Byrd’s Storage and Advenir at Dawson Hills to the south.

“All these [surrounding] apartment developments were developed at six units per acre,” developer consultant Jim King said at the 2021 meeting. “We are asking under five units per acre (4.8 units/acre) on this particular development.” 

Development 4
Photo submitted to DCN.

Application site plans showed the residential units surrounded by the commercial ones on the property. During his presentation, King added two buildings will be on each site, with one facing the residential area “to give a nice streetscape” and another in each pair facing Dawson Forest Road. Loading areas will be in between the structures but blocked from view from both sides. 

The county included more than 20 stipulations for the rezone approvals, including a restriction on rentals in the residential part of the development and a prohibition on fully attached units. 

The mixed-use project’s residential amenities will include two-car enclosed garages, a picnic area and five-foot sidewalks on both sides of the residential streets. Within the commercial portion, a five-foot sidewalk will be along at least one side of all connecting internal streets.

Signs will prohibit on-street parking. 

A mulch trail will also be installed connecting the neighborhood to Dawson Forest Road and Farmington Creek Apartments, but as King noted at the time, the path won’t be continued through the latter complex because of its HUD funding. There will be an eight-foot multi-use sidewalk along Dawson Forest Road and Ga. 53, part of the county’s forthcoming greenway network. 

In terms of traffic infrastructure, the developer will have to construct a left turn lane on Dawson Forest Road and align The Enclave’s entrance with the central entrance for the Advenir apartments. 

Per the stipulations, the developer is also expected to contribute a total of $250,000 toward construction for the expected intersection improvements at Ga. 53 and Dawson Forest Road. 

In June 2022, the county announced plans to realign Thompson Creek Park Road in preparation for a roundabout at its intersection with Ga. 53. Once commenced, that project is 

expected to take 6-8 months to complete.

Also included in the stipulations was a condition for construction to begin on at least one of the commercial buildings by the time half of the residential units are completed. Then, certificates of occupancy can be issued for the remaining homes.

King told DCN on Sept. 7 that this kind of stipulation directs developers to avoid building residential land uses without commercial aspects. It’s something that BOC members like District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines have spoken to in recent months, King said. 

Development Authority of Dawson County chair Brian Trapnell also told the BOC in May that the county’s tax collections are being driven by residential land uses,  which comprise 68% of 2021 tax collections. 

Residential land in Dawson County only makes about $61,000 an acre versus $75,000 an acre for commercial or industrial uses, Trapnell said.

A 2021 analysis from Georgia Tech noted that the county’s residential digest doesn’t fully pay for its services. The study called $431,000 the “break even point” for a home in Dawson County to cover the cost of county services.

Additionally, the study said sales at North Georgia Premium Outlets and other area businesses prop up Local Option Sales Tax collections, which are typically based on more property taxes.

“One of the reasons that the county residential deficit is so small is due to the amount of L.O.S.T. that is paid by out-of-county residents,” the study stated. “While this is a positive situation for Dawson County, new growth still demands capital expenditures (e.g., roads, traffic lights, fire stations, etc.) which could place a burden on local government finances.” 

In July, Gaines voiced concern about a recession possibly leading to a decrease in the L.O.S.T. revenue on which the county relies, and therefore, a heavier burden on property taxes. 

Multiple factors can influence property tax collections, such as homes’ assessed values and county and school system millage rates.  

In his conversation with DCN, King called the ratio of residential to commercial land uses “a delicate balance,” given all the dynamics involved. 

“You need the commercial [uses] for the tax base,” King added, “[but] with all of the commercial businesses we have now, there's almost no place for the people that work there to live.”