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Sunday May 20th, 2018 11:33AM

Oakwood city council approves Rosewood subdivision rezoning with conditions

By Alyson Shields Reporter
  Contact Editor

After an intensive public hearing, Oakwood City Council members voted to approve the rezoning and annexation requests with conditions made by the developer of the proposed Rosewood subdivision on McEver, Chamblee and Westbrook Roads.

"The result of the action the council had tonight (Monday) was to add an additional three acres of amenity and green space to the development and also to insure that some of the town homes, half of them, some had two car garages while the other half a one car garage," said City Manager Stan Brown, after the meeting. "Concerns about adding too many cars in the neighborhood and making sure it's a safe place for kids."

Developer Rosewood Active Adult Communities LLC presented a revised plan that showed 211 single family detached homes and 44 townhomes. This plan was different than the initial plan, as it was no longer an active adult community as well as having a lower number of homes. Rosewood was before the board Monday night to rezone two parcels of land and annex and rezone the parcel to Planned Residential Development.

Tommy Barnes with the Rosewood Development, briefly presented the updated rendering and plans, mentioning the possiblity of a commerical section but did not mention a small green space they had added to the rendering since the last meeting with council. 

As it was a public hearing, the public was invited to comment. No one spoke in favor of the Rosewood development, thought several people spoke in opposition. That included several neighbors, like Sarah Caruso, who was very concerned about the potential threat to local children the neighborhood posed.

"I'm passionate about children, obviously, and their well-being," Caruso said to the council. She is the Youth Director at Christ Lutheran Church in the city and a mother of five. Her husband also serves Hall County as a firefighter. "The average household has 2.4 children. That's roughly 600 proposed children coming in to our proposed development. This is very exciting, however I am extremely concerned about their welfare and safety. Rosewood has proposed little green space, no amenities and very unclear buffers."

Caruso held up a photo for the council. "As you can see this is the current 15 foot buffer on Westbrook. And there's a bulldozer that went through there earlier today that knocked down some of that buffer. This is concerning to me because this makes it very dangerous for children. Not so much on the Westbrook side, but on the McEver tract, that's very dangerous. And with the widening project... that's even scarier. To know that with little green space, no place for them to play, no place for them to grow and learn safely, I forsee them trying to cross - even with a crosswalk - a very busy, busy stretch of road and going over to the high school or middle school to play on their green space.

"Providing a plan without so much as a basketball goal. let alone green space, shows you community is not their first priority in this place," added Shannon Reed during his speaking turn. His family owns a farm right next to the development property. "It will not be a field forever. But if 60 acres of this land will be used to build 100 homes, then there'd be plenty of space for these future families to thrive. A far cry from the original 300 houses on 43 acres, a density that was not lost on some of the planning commission.

"If done correctly, this neighborhood could grow an even stronger community by tapping in to something not at all mentioned in the comprehensive plan, the West Hall cluster. It seems UNG would be the focus, but the tax base appears to be made of West Hall Spartans... and a few Knights. High school families will do most anything for the community, it would benefit both Oakwood and West Hall if it was successful."
 
Other concerns form Caruso, Reed and community members included what comes with a a retail shopping space that was proposed as an option in the neighborhood, the fact that people still farm in those areas and the hazards of maneuvering equipment with heavy traffic, and how much the additional services needed to monitor and take control of situations in the area, including Oakwood Police and Hall County Fire, would truly cost the city and county.
 
"This new plan actually does have an ammenity area," said Barnes, when he was given the oppurtunity to respond to some of the concerns, inlcuding a question from councilwoman Sherri Millwood. "That came up at he planninc commission. They haven't decided for sure what they're going to do with it, if they'll have a pool, a little clubhouse or just a playground."

Community members repeatedly brought up the goals in the Oakwood 2030 mission, which Millwood took to heart during a discussion. After making a conditional motion to approve the requests for annexation and rezoning, requiring green space and double car garages for all the proposed town homes, the board discussed if those conditions were even possible.  Council member Todd Wilson was concerned about the pricing on the homes, including the market for homes in their area, and whether or not the changes to green space, and  garages, would drastically affect the actual plans for the project. "You've said about four times about how the property owner makes a profit. Is that really what we're about? Aren't we about preserving the community of Oakwood?" said Millwood during the discussion. "To me, if we're going to build a nice quality product and we can be proud to have Oakwood's name on it, shouldn't we have a space for children to play and older people to gather and a club house for people to go and have family gatherings and birthday parties and showers?"

After the discussion, Millwood amended the previously made conditional approval, now requesting the developer include a three acre total green space and community area across both parcels brought before the council.

As for the two car garages, Millwood made the request in her initial motion to require every townhome to have a two car garage, but eventually amended her initial condition to instead require only half of the townhomes to have two car garages and the rest may have one car garages, like in the initial proposal showing, with all the townhomes having a one car garage.
 
Both amended motions carried 4-1, with Wilson casting the no vote both times. The meeting lasted almost three hours and nearly every seat in Oakwood City Hall was filled. Brown said despite the talk and action, there's still more for Rosewood officials to tackle.
 
"I think the important thing is that this project will still go through the review process for the civil engineering plans, and they'll have the opportunity to look at travel impacts, storm water, utilities, all of that will be part of the process as well as buffers and other items," Brown said.
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