Following multiple public hearings and rounds through the Dawson County Planning and Zoning process, plans for a 520-acre multi-use development proposed to be built off Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground Road have been officially withdrawn by developer Fox Creek Properties.
At the Dec. 17 Dawson County Board of Commissioners Voting Session, commissioners approved a motion to withdraw plans for the Etowah Bluffs development, which was submitted to the Dawson County Planning Commission in August.
Speaking to the board of commissioners on Thursday night, project spokesman Kenneth Wood, president of Planners and Engineers Collaborative said that project stakeholders would need to go back to the drawing board on the project before submitting it for approval again.
In 2019, the site at Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground was home to another, much larger proposed multi-use development called Etowah Village, which sought to bring 947-acres of retail, office space and housing, similar to that of Alpharetta’s Avalon development, to the area. Amidst intense disapproval from the community and local elected officials, the proposed Etowah Village project was also later withdrawn.
Wood said that during the planning process they went through about 10 variations of the development’s plans, tweaking the layout, where the different pods would be, how much buffering from neighboring existing homes would be included, and the exact concentration of housing versus retail and light industrial space.
But rather than deferring plans for an unknown amount of time so that changes needed by community stakeholders could be made, Wood said that they chose to withdraw the plans to continue working with county staff before filing again.
“Let us withdraw if you guys will. And then let us come back and meet with you guys before we file and make sure we have the right plan,” he said. “That way we have a plan everybody can be happy with and move forward at that point.”
Since the project was initially presented in August, planning commissioners recommended approval of a rezoning request to take the 520 acres from Residential Agriculture, Residential Planned Community and several other zoning classifications to the county’s MUV (Mixed Use Village) classification, which is intended for “live work play” communities.
“We feel like we have the right zoning and the right pieces, but it’s such a big property it’s just going to take a little while to line everything up,” Wood said.
Prior to Fox Creek Properties’ request to withdraw, commissioners were set to discuss the rezoning on Thursday night and possibly take action on it. But now that will not happen until the plans are resubmitted and brought before the planning commission again.
“This piece of property has been back and forth a hundred times, I think getting it right is the first step,” District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said after Wood’s presentation. “I’m not willing to move forward on anything I’m not seeing a clear picture of what the future looks like … we need more information and the public needs more information.”
Undeterred by the project’s withdrawal, multiple community members spoke at the meeting in opposition to the development, continuing to cite fears about the development’s impact on the environment, public resources and the added population growth of Dawson County as a whole.
Speaking in opposition to the development, local resident Bruce Duncil told the commissioners that regardless of the changes that have been made to the plans, residents still view this project, and others like it, as “a step in an active direction to failure.”
“We appreciate that they are focused on bringing in work, proposed retail space and hotels typically bring in low-income jobs, people who make minimum wage and can’t afford to live here,” Duncil said. “Population growth is not inevitable … we’re looking for disapproval.”
After hearing from a handful of community members the motion to withdraw was approved 3-0, with commissioners Sharon Faucett and Julie Hughes Nix absent.
According to Commission Chair Billy Thurmond, now that the plans have been withdrawn, the project must be resubmitted to the county and will go through the planning and zoning process for a second time.