GAINESVILLE – A unanimous recommendation for approval was given Tuesday evening by the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board to a rezoning request that will allow the 56-year-old Masonic Lodge on Dawsonville Highway to be demolished and replaced with a multi-tenant retail/office strip center and restaurant.
Applicant Rock Baker said after the meeting that before the foundation of the proposed 13,500-square feet development is poured a lot of dirt will need to be moved - Baker plans to lower the grade of the 2.75-acre site to street level.
“Forty-thousand cubic yards of dirt,” Baker estimated. “So the viability of the project depends upon finding people or other developments along Dawsonville Highway that need some of that dirt.”
That means a retaining wall along the west side of the site will be needed. “The west side (wall) will be the bigger one, probably twenty, twenty-five, maybe thirty feet,” Baker ventured regarding the height of the finished landscape feature.
Baker, who also built a retaining wall at another recent development, said it would be attractive. He likened the proposed wall to the one he built for the Starbucks complex on Thompson Bridge Road.
“If you remember the way the Blockbuster building used to look – now people drive by and ask ‘How did you do that?’”, Baker said. “It will be equal or better.”
Seven area residents spoke in opposition to the project but their opposition was not purely against changing the zoning from Residential-1 to General Business. Most of the concerns expressed had to do with the nature of the businesses that would occupy the complex, the possible environmental impact on Lake Lanier and increased traffic congestion along the Dawsonville Highway corridor.
Gainesville attorney and area resident Clyde Morris spoke in support of Baker’s request. Morris is also a member of the Lake Lanier Association and chairs the “Sedimentation and Erosion Control Committee”.
“I have spoken with Rock,” Morris told the Planning Board members. “And Rock has authorized me to disclose to the Board tonight that he has made a verbal commitment to me to sign a written pledge with the Lake Lanier Association for certain specific steps to be taken before any dirt will be turned on this property.”
Troy McGraw of Lakemont Drive spoke in limited opposition and said that he often found debris in his yard that was purchased at a convenience store and tattoo business adjacent to the proposed development. McGraw told board members of his concerns. “This gas station here that’s also General Business, multi-tenant, the things that they have…is things conducive with drug use…also the element (clientele) that hangs around for that type of tenant.”
“I’m opposing this because I find a lot of this drug paraphernalia in my cul-de-sac. It’s actually packaging that’s displayed in that gas station. If it is going to be anything like that then I would oppose it.”
Planning Manager Matt Tate assured the board and McGraw that one of the zoning conditions attached to Baker’s request exhaustively listed businesses similar to the ones that McGraw mentioned and that such business concerns were explicitly prohibited.
The recommendation for approval granted to Baker now goes to the Gainesville City Council for their final decision on August 7th.
Click here for the zoning request in its entirety and to view pertaining maps, site plans and architectural elevations.