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Proposed mixed-use village clears next hurdle
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Fox Creek Properties has applied to rezone 518 acres for a mixed-use village along Dawson County’s bustling Ga. 400 corridor.

Developer Fox Creek Properties is now one step closer to realizing their vision for a mixed-use village at the intersection of Lumpkin Campground Road and Ga. 400. 

The Dawson County Planning Commission voted 3-1 to recommend approval of Fox Creek’s rezoning request of 500-plus acres for the project, with Chairman and District 1 representative Jason Hamby abstaining. 

This decision follows fiery public input on the topic during the commission’s March meeting and an April 12 community forum held by the developer. The Board of Commissioners will ultimately approve or deny the rezone at their May 19 meeting. At that time, Fox Creek will have the opportunity to give an updated presentation that includes additional stipulations and information.

At residents’ requests, project spokesperson and PEC president Ken Wood provided updated tax and fee figures publicly when he spoke to the planning board on April 19. 

Fox Creek predicts about $5 million in annual tax revenue for the project. He said there will be just under $10 million paid in impact fees, with $7 million of that going to Etowah Water and Sewer and the rest going to the county. 

Wood also reiterated and explained several stipulations that the developer is considering in light of Savannah Trace residents’ concerns. The Etowah Bluffs village would be to the north and east of that neighborhood. 

He shared that he and his colleagues will know “really soon” whether or not they would be able to run a secondary emergency entrance through the neighborhood easement. Wood added he’s talked to the fire marshal, so he and Fox Creek know what has to be done if another option ends up being more feasible. 

When District 4 commissioner and Vice Chair Neil Hornsey asked about right of way, Wood explained that since Brights Way is a private HOA road, they would bring an emergency entrance down to Ga. 53 if they are not able to establish one at the end of the neighborhood road. 

“It’s still just an emergency entrance, but with more disturbance [at Ga. 53],” Wood added. 

The emergency entrance could only be accessed with a special switch for first responders or a lockbox for Savannah Trace residents only to go through the forthcoming gate on golf carts or on foot. That gate would not be for people of the mixed-use village to access Savannah Trace. 

The buffer between the development and Savannah Trace would be 250 feet total, with a 200-foot undisturbed portion and 50 feet of replanted evergreens. A five-foot, black vinyl chain-link fence would be installed and would terminate prior to entering stream buffers, Wood said.

The village section closest to Savannah Trace would contain single-family detached homes. Residents in those homes would not be allowed to encroach on the 250-foot area with additional home construction or improvements. That rule would apply to their HOA and to individual lot owners. 

Wood also explained the proposed road improvements again, reiterating the general expansion from two to four lanes in front of the development and signal changes. The right-turn lane approaching Ga. 400 would get longer and a little wider, and people entering from across Lumpkin Campground Road or turning right off of Ga. 400 would have an additional lane through which to travel. 

There would be a dual right or R-cut configuration and loop pattern for trucks getting on or off Ga. 400 and traveling to or from the village’s industrial area. Deceleration lanes would approach all entrances, and there would also be left-turn lanes approaching the access points. 

The developer could also look at further suggested changes to signal timing or turn lanes, should the DRI traffic study find that there are further impacts across the street from the development or at Ga. 53, Wood said. 

Fox Creek lead developer Bill Evans requested that any follow-up traffic studies be tied to what is done in terms of the development’s impact rather than to an annual timeframe. 

“I don’t know what y’all think, but I think we’re fixing to have another recession…the odds of not having a pause in the next three years are somewhere between slim and none with the economy and the interest rates,” Evans said. 

The developer was fine with District 2 commissioner John Maloney’s suggestion of adding the addendum “or as deemed necessary by the county engineer” to the stipulation about traffic study update frequency. 

Maloney also wanted no pad grading for home sites added as a stipulation. That commissioner also pointed out that GDOT may be looking at fixing the Lumpkin Campground-Ga.400 intersection’s askew “X” shape. Wood said he hadn’t heard that and to this point, they were only looking at addressing the limited approach. 

Maloney also asked for a stipulation that the site plan shown be concept only and that any traffic improvements like throat depths or distances between intersections get final approval by the county engineer, as those details may need to be changed in the future. 

Commissioner Steve Sanvi asked that POD A or the commercial section be a minimum of 29,800 square feet moving forward, to allow for some retail expansion or size changes. 

Wood reiterated that Fox Creek does not want their project to be a “national retailer” type of thing but rather “yall’s local place as a destination.” 

Wood also went over the two-phase buildout plan again, emphasizing that trails, the multifamily and a portion of the detached and attached homes would be built during the first phase. 

District 3 Commissioner Tim Bennett noted that a lot of people may come in saying they’re going to build commercial before residential, when “it’s usually the reverse of that.”

Bill Evans clarified with the apartments builder, PENLER, that all the multifamily units or apartments will be built at once. 

“It’s a 10-year project that we’re gonna have to move through in chunks so we’re not disturbing a massive amount of area,” added Wood, “for stormwater, disturbance, erosion…and everything else for the site.”

Sanvi thanked Wood and Evans for their April 12 presentation, which he attended. 

“I am cognizant of the citizens who are upset with any new development in Dawson County,” Sanvi said. “I would like to point out that the city of Dawsonville just last night (April 18) approved development on Hwy. 9 for 220 rooftops with $0 impact fee to the county or the city. This area is growing, and we need to do it in a managed way.”