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Sunday June 17th, 2018 11:25PM

Major last minute change to 'hot' annexation/zoning request leads to approval

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – An eleventh hour change (made by the applicant) affecting an annexation request that was tabled last month had staff scrambling Tuesday evening as the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board met to consider the request.

Applicant Limestone Greenway, LLC, asked shortly before their appearance before the GPAB to significantly modify their original request, reducing their development plans by more than half.

“I have been informed that here is a slight - not a slight - a major modification in the request,” GPAB Chairman Doug Carter said as the meeting started.  He added that the standard format for considering an annexation request would be slightly altered in light of the last minute change in the application.

Gainesville Planning Manager Matt Tate said, “We haven’t been able to fully digest everything here but given that the proposal is a reduction…we are amenable…sticking with our recommendations, just with (some) modified conditions.”

Limestone Greenway, LLC, had been seeking annexation into the city and Planned Unit Development zoning for a 75.12-acre tract at the intersection of Limestone and Jesse Jewell Parkways for the purpose of constructing 252 multi-family residential units, 33 single-family homes and over 189,000 square feet of office, retail, restaurant and hotel space.

Gainesville attorney Jim Walters represented the applicant and he told board members, “The application which has been modified and delivered to the city…is for approximately 33-acres and it is the commercial part of the request only.”

The amended application now before the GPAB was for 33.87-acres to be annexed into the city, completely removing the residential component from the original request and allowing the remaining 41.25-acres to remain in unincorporated Hall County.

“We’re ready to…move forward with this project,” Walters said.  “We’ve been working on it for two and a half years.”

Referring to the request being tabled last month Walters said, “We’ve had some time to think about this since it was tabled at the last meeting…for everybody to consider where we are going with this.”

Walters said part of the developer’s decision to change the application was due to the number of new families that would move into the development.  “We’ve taken out this residential component; we didn’t want to burden the city schools.”

“This is a beautiful development that is going to take over from an old wooded, swampy area,” Walters said.

Roughly twenty people in the audience intended to speak in opposition to the rezoning, but upon hearing the change in the application only four came to the podium to address the board.  The general theme of their concerns was that the city stringently adheres to building standards and closely monitors environmental requirements.

Area resident Beverly Nordholz asked, “I would just like to know if…there are any plans for the property as residential…if you will take this to the County Commission to approve a development?”

Chairman Carter called Walters to the podium to answer Nordholz’s question. 

“Actually,” Walters began, “I don’t have the liberty of addressing that.”

With comment concluded the board voted 4-1 in favor of the annexation and rezoning request; board member Ryan Thompson was the lone dissenting vote.

Both Walters and developer Wendell Starke of Gainesville declined after the hearing to provide further information about any additional reasons for the last minute change in the application.

The matter now goes to the Gainesville City Council for final approval.

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