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Planning Commission recommends approval of rezone for 113 attached townhomes
Photo courtesy of the Dawson County Planning Commission.

With little fanfare compared to previous meetings, the Dawson County Planning Commission

voted unanimously to recommend approval to rezone 18.9 acres for a 113-unit rental development at Beartooth Parkway and Dawson Village Way.

Chairman Jason Hamby abstained from voting, since it was a unanimous 4-0 decision. 

District 2 planning commissioner John Maloney motioned to add the stipulation that the developer have 25 feet between the face of each garage to the curb or sidewalk face.

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will ultimately approve or deny the rezone at their June 16 voting session, which will immediately follow the 4 p.m. work session.

The land for the proposed complex lies within District 3, represented by planning commissioner Tim Bennett. The applicant, Wisconsin-based development company Continental Properties, wants the property to be rezoned from Commercial Highway Business to Residential Multi-Family for the purpose of building the townhome apartments. 

In the rezoning application, Planning and Development projected the complex’s density would be about six units per acre, which aligns with the Future Land Use plan and residential multi-family density neutral policies. 

“The proposed infill development will improve an under-used parcel within an existing area that is developed,” Planning stated. “The site is over eighteen acres of vacant land within an established commercial node, which, for various reasons, has been passed over in the normal course of commercial growth.”

Senior development director Gwyn Wheeler spoke for Continental during the meeting. She said the company has been around for four decades, during which time it’s developed 30,000 multi-family residences. 

There are two locations of the company’s Springs luxury apartment brand in Georgia, one in Newnan and another in McDonough, and construction is ongoing on the company’s workforce housing Authentix complex in Cartersville. 

Their development proposed in Dawson County would fall under their forthcoming Avanterra brand of homes. These homes would range in size from 983 to 1,860 square feet and have between one and four bedrooms, according to Continental’s application packet. 

Each residence’s layout, be it for a ranch or two-story structure, would include an open concept with stainless steel appliances, solid surface countertops and washer and dryer, with some units also having fenced-in yards. 

Units would have either an elongated driveway or a one or two-car attached garage with space for one to two cars in the driveway.

Garages for the complex here would have to be attached rather than detached to meet local zoning criteria. 

“The ones you see [on the presentation] that are standing alone would be attached to another one at the garage, so it’d be near it,” Wheeler said. “We tried to do our best to keep any living spaces separated, so you’re not having any common walls at a bedroom.” 

There would be an amenities area with a central clubhouse, dog park and swimming pool. 

Tenants will have standard one-year leases to rent their homes, and the management team will all be personnel from Continental, rather than a third-party.

“It’s going to be a great housing option for the aging population and the younger folks coming out of college,” she said. “They (millennials) have a significant amount of disposable income but they don't want to spend it on their house. They don't want to have to worry about having to pay taxes…they’d rather spend it on shopping at [places like] the outlet mall and restaurants.” 

Wheeler explained that Dawson County’s employment base, education and incomes made a possible project appealing in the area. 

“The housing supply is not meeting demand,” Wheeler said. “You can see that by the rents that are currently getting aschewed, the occupancies and the construction permits are not meeting demand. That’s what’s driving up the housing prices we’re hearing about every day on the news, and it’s turning people to renting…also over-purchasing.”

She shared an Apartment List statistic that 12 percent of millennials are choosing not to buy and characterized renting as a choice “not that they can’t buy all the time, but that they don’t want to.” 

Continental’s rezone application stated it hopes the Avanterra development will appeal to 

people making an average household income of $150,000. 

Updated 2020 U.S. Census results for Dawson County showed that married-couple families in the area make a median income of $102,404, with local families in general making $86,206. 

Chairman Hamby asked about price points for monthly rent.

“Our base rent for today–and we do use revenue management so it’s hard to say what it would be when would be when we broke ground–but right now, our projected rent starts at about $1,700 for a one-bedroom up to about $2,500 for a one-bedroom,” Wheeler said, “and that would be base rent.”

Things like the garage or upgraded finishes would cost extra, she added. 

Hamby also asked whether units had ever been sold in Continental’s other developments. She explained that when they were previously only building two to three communities a year, they would need to sell a certain percentage of a community in order to fund future development. 

“Since then, we’ve grown within our investment group, gotten some trusted development partners and established some trusted development partners and established some trusted development funds,” said Wheeler, “so we’ve hit a place with our capital investment that we no longer need to fund new development by selling old development.”

She did clarify that sometimes, selling is an operational decision when, say, no other Continental complexes are nearby to offer support and added that locating near Atlanta would help the company concentrate in the area market for better operational efficiency. 

She also shared that with their products, they typically see 10 percent of residents with school-aged children, as opposed to a traditional single-family subdivision with more kids. 

Roads and parking

Wheeler described the land as a challenging piece of property in terms of its topographic and environmental considerations and characterized their proposed community as a better fit than a commercial entity would be. 

Dawson County’s engineering department said that in light of this project, they’re requesting a traffic study for Beartooth Parkway, widening of parts of Beartooth, turn lanes off of it and state routes and the possibility of additional right of way. 

Continental has yet to conduct an in-depth traffic study but would be open to doing that, Wheeler said. 

The planning department said that development is “logical due to the lack of adequate frontage on an arterial or collector roadway,” adding that any sensitive resources would be addressed during the land development review process and that any landscaping and screening shall be “in accordance with the Dawson County Code, as amended.”

When Tim Bennett asked about sight distance concerns at the sharp curve on Beartooth, Wheeler said that she’d imagine there would be a lot of clearing. 

“As much as we would love to keep as much of the existing vegetation that is there, I don’t imagine there’ll be a lot left, and then we can have that opportunity to open up vision corridors,” she said. 

Etowah Water & Sewer Authority would require a water main and sewer extension, upgrade or relocation required to serve the development, according to the application packet. That must be designed and installed per EWSA specifications at the developer’s expense.

Wheeler explained that Continental has not yet done thorough, in-depth engineering, though they are mindful of parking and other site constraints.

John Maloney pointed out that apartment communities typically have additional parking or storage to prevent running out of room on driveways or having to park on sidewalks. 

Wheeler mentioned there would be off-street parking for visitors by the clubhouse, on the development’s north side near Dawson Village Way and off toward the eastern exit. 

“We worked with staff and the fire department to try to make sure we’ve taken into consideration the criteria [and] met the code…we will continue to try to enhance the parking situation as much as we can,” she added.

Maloney recommended “at least a two-car parking driveway” to avoid a fire or public safety hazard since even with a one bedroom-unit, two people are likely to live there. 

Local development consultant Jim King, who’s working with Continental, did point out that code enforcement for parking would be easier since on-site managers would be the sole contact as representatives of the one owner, Continental.

King later added that for the units with garages, those structures are set to the rear of lots. 

Maloney said it wasn’t so much about who enforces parking but about the engineering. 

“You can engineer it so you don't have the problem,” he said to King, “ or you can have a problem, and then you have a problem that has to be somehow enforced and then you have an issue with public safety trying to get in there and fight a fire.”