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Sunday January 17th, 2021 6:36AM

286-homes off Gaines Mill Road get go-ahead from Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – Rolling hills and flowing streams might make great scenery but they can also complicate the job of a developer.  Such is the case for 231.5-acres along Gaines Mill Road, about a mile east of Athens Highway (U.S. 129).

The site was annexed into the City of Gainesville and zoned for a 300-house subdivision more than fourteen years ago.  The Great Recession stalled those plans but now property owner El Chahal Holdings, LLC, is ready to begin construction.

Applicant Brian Rochester told members of the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board Tuesday evening, “It is, in my line of work, what we like to call ‘topographically challenged’, to say the least, with a lot of environmental concerns.”

Rochester wrote in his application that “…over 50-percent of the property contains slopes in excess of 25-percent.  In order to efficiently develop the site roads must be placed along ridge lines to avoid deep cuts and fills during grading.”

Rochester said the most practical use of the land and its features, and to minimize the amount of clearing and grading necessary, is to reduce the number of homes from 300 to 286, but that would also mean adjusting the lot sizes and setback restrictions approved in 2006.

Using lot sizes and setbacks established in 2006, according to Rochester, “Really doesn’t work without just really blitzing the land.”

Rochester said the new design still called for minimum lot sizes of 10,000-square feet.

Kenneth Brown lives on Gaines Mill Road and spoke in opposition to the variance request. He said he is concerned about an increase in traffic that will be created by the residents moving into the new development.  He asked that the Board delay their approval until a stop light could be approved for the intersection of Gaines Mill Road and Athens Highway, and for Gaines Mill Road to be resurfaced.

“The road is scheduled to be resurfaced, I believe, in two years,” Brown said.

GPAB Chairman Doug Carter told Brown that the property was already zoned; that the vote by the board would only affect the lot sizes and setback requirements.

That vote to approve the variances was unanimous.

Rochester said houses won’t be ready for sale until the first quarter of 2022.

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