During the Sept. 12 meeting of the Dawsonville Planning Commission, members of the commission voted to recommend denial of a rezoning request for 33.98 acres located at 2120 Perimeter Road and 922 Highway 53 East.
According to the application, Jim Chapman Communities, Inc. is asking to annex three acres of land into the city limits and to then rezone that acreage and an additional 30.98 acres from R1 (Restricted Single Family Residential District) to R6 (Multiple Family Residential District). Should the property be rezoned, the developer is then proposing the construction of 195 apartment units with a density of 5.74 units per acre.
In a presentation to the planning commission, Jim Chapman, owner of Jim Chapman Communities Inc., explained that his goal is to build a development similar to The Cottages at Dawson Ridge, which is located at 500 North Lumpkin Campground Road in Dawson County.
“The Cottages at Dawson Ridge is in your county… and this is an example of basically exactly what I would propose here except our community within your city would be gated and privatized,” Chapman said in his presentation. “Most of our typical clients are either baby boomers or millennials; a lot of these folks have tremendous jobs, tremendous incomes; most are either downsizing and renting by choice or renting a home in hopes to save money and get a downpayment and actually buy a home.”
According to Chapman, each of the units would have the master on the main and at least a one-car garage, and the community’s amenities would include a clubhouse, pool and dog park.
Chapman added that The Cottages at Dawson Ridge, which is comparable to the goal for the new development, consists of two bedroom, two bathroom, one car lots which are 1,025 square feet and currently rent for $1,992/month; three bedroom, two bathroom, one car lots which are 1,421 square feet and currently rent for $2,233/month; and three bedroom, two and a half bathroom, two car lots which are 1,466 square feet and currently rent for $2,350/month.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, several residents from Sweetwater Preserve and other neighborhoods near to the property in question voiced their concerns about whether the existing infrastructure in the city is enough to support more residents moving in and if building houses to rent rather than purchase is the best use of the land.
“I think that if you are going to have new homes in Dawsonville I think it should be to buy and not to rent; I think that a lot of people move to Dawsonville for a specific reason and maybe people want not what they see in Forsyth or Alpharetta and those areas… we like having not a tremendous amount of people,” one resident said to the planning commission. “The growth has been so exponential and I think that the infrastructure has not kept up with it; I mean, there’s not even a hospital in Dawsonville and I think that a lot of those things should be better thought out before we continue to grow.”
Other community members voiced concerns about increased traffic in the area and strain on the school system with new families moving in. Chapman addressed these concerns, saying that though there would be 195 units built, most of these units would not be occupied by families with children in the school system.
“Our units are small, we just don’t attract families; we mostly have single women, active adults and seniors,” Chapman said. “Our targets are active adults, seniors and what I call high-level work force.”
For comparison, Chapman shared demographics from The Cottages at Dawson Ridge, which has 193 units. According to Chapman, out of this total number only 19 units have school-age children, which adds up to 36 children total. Out of this number of children, only 21 are in the public school system, he said.
Chapman added that, in Dawson Ridge, there is an average of 1.95 occupants per unit. The average age is 45 years old, 64.4 percent of occupants are single and the average income per door is $145,410, he said.
Joey Homans from Fox, Chandler, Homans, Hicks & McKinnon, LLP also spoke during the meeting on behalf of Chapman and addressed the traffic concerns raised by the residents. According to Homans, the developer is currently waiting on the results from a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) to see what the impact on the property would be, but the developer is open to doing what he can to help improve the traffic and road situation in the area.
“We’re not insensitive to those concerns, but the situation is what it is today and they’re having the problems now; we’re trying to come in to help fortify a solution,” Homans said. “Mr. Chapman wants to be involved in the community; he will be involved in the community because his management team will be here and he’ll pay significant taxes here.”
Following the public hearing, members of the planning commission asked questions to Chapman, Homans and the city’s planning and zoning department, including questions about the sewer and other infrastructure that would support the new development.
Planning Commission Chairman Randy Davis added his concerns to those voiced by community members about adding more traffic to the already busy area.
“It’s already pretty busy, we have three schools on a triangle that’s within seven tenths of a mile of each other and in the mornings it’s already a tough situation to get kids back and forth,” Davis said. “We’re talking about another 195 units which would be an addition of another 400 cars basically in that area.”
Planning Commission member Anna Tobolski questioned members of the planning and zoning department, confirming that the proposed project is more comparable to a multi-family (R6) zoning, whereas in the city’s comprehensive plan the property is currently designated to be mixed-use (PUD) zoning.
“My concern is I don’t believe that it does match the comp plan; a mixed use is not the same as a multi family zoning,” Tobolski said. “I would contend that, respectfully, that 31 homes, if it was built up what’s it’s zoned currently, is a big difference from 195 units. Mixed use does have land uses with some multi-family, however the big difference is that a mixed use has a max density per acre of 2.8 and in comparison to 5.74 that’s a big difference.”
Tobolski added that the intersection of Perimeter Road and Highway 53 is an important one for both city and county residents, so that what ends up being built there should adhere to the city’s comprehensive plan.
“That intersection right there is an integral part of connecting Dawson County residents and the City of Dawsonville, so people are using it to go through, people are connecting, not to mention just the schools,” Tobolski said, “so it’s really important what we put there and I think that the main thing that we have to follow is the comp plan with that; I think a mixed use is a more appropriate designation.”
“I would make a motion that we would recommend a denial on this request strictly speaking because I don’t believe it follows with our comprehensive plan and what’s in the best interest of the City of Dawsonville,” she added.
Planning Commission members voted unanimously to recommend denial of both the annexation request for the three acres and the rezoning request for the total 33.98 acres.
Next, both the annexation and rezoning requests will go before the Dawsonville City Council on Oct. 3 for a public hearing, and the council will make a decision to approve or deny the requests on Oct. 17. Both city council meetings will be held at 5 p.m. in the G.L. Gilleland Council Chambers on the second floor of the city hall building.