Friday July 10th, 2020 10:05PM

Habersham County Commission votes to object to Baldwin annexation for 730-home development

By Rob Moore Reporter

CLARKESVILLE – The Habersham County Commission voted unanimously Monday night to formally object to a proposed annexation by the City of Baldwin that could allow a developer to build 730 residential units and a shopping strip on land that is zoned for less than 50 homes.

Lula Capital LLC has purchased 145 acres in the vicinity of Thompson Road and Wilbanks Road behind Dairy Queen on Ga. 365 and announced plans to develop it as follows:

  • 10 acres for commercial with at least five businesses,
  • 20 acres for multi-family residential,
  • 32.5 acres for single-family residential,
  • 43.5 acres for single-family detached residential, and
  • 39 acres for single-family detached residential.

The proposed annexation would create approximately 730 housing units where county zoning would allow only 49, a staff report states.

“This will add 50 driveways to Wilbanks Road and thousands of cars attempting to access 365 from a small, two-lane road,” resident Chrissy Owenby told county commissioners Monday night.

But even before Owenby and seven others addressed the county commission Monday night, Chairman Stacy Hall told them the commission has legal and procedural concerns about the annexation request from Baldwin.

In addition to Thompson Road and Wilbanks Road, residents of Creasy Patch Road, Alto-Mud Creek Road and Mud Creek Road said they are concerned about the impact on their roads.

Resident Denise York said there are two historical cemeteries and a historic mound that could be negatively impacted by the proposed development.

Mandy Wade, an educator speaking as a resident, pointed out the impact the children from 730 residential units would have on Baldwin and Level Grove elementary schools, both of which are near capacity, and on South Habersham Middle School outside Cornelia, where those students would be districted.

Dr. Tom Weyrich, a resident of the area for 26 years and a pediatric dentist, pointed out issues with flooding, stopped-up culverts and roads not designed for the potential volume associated with a development that size.

Weyrich said based on 2018 Georgia Department of Transportation data, the proposed development would increase traffic on the already stressed stretch of Ga. 365 from Ga. 384 (Duncan Bridge Road) to Ga. 52 (Lula Road in Hall County) by 28%.

Kathleen Cook, adjacent property owner, said the roads and infrastructure are not designed for such a large development.

Cook said residents know growth is coming, but they hope it will be planned growth rather than such a large development.

“We ask you to balance the growth and protect our community,” Cook told commissioners.

Charlie Cunningham of Alto-Mud Creek Road agreed with Cook and others about the impact on roads in the area, especially considering the same developer has only utilized 41 of 166 building lots approved at its nearby Highland Point subdivision off Charley Davis Road in Baldwin.

All those addressing commissioners said Baldwin officials, during last week’s city council meeting, said the city would serve the development with water and sewer, but road and bridge upgrades would fall on the county.

Brandon Marcus raised concerns about the increased county public safety requirements of a 730-unit residential development and the associated traffic entering Ga. 365.

Findings of a staff review of the proposed annexation include:

  • Per the county attorney, the annexation is not contiguous to the validly annexed portions City of Baldwin. There are at least three locations where properties were illegally annexed without the required 50-foot minimum common boundary.
  • Of the 730 total dwelling units, 704 of them will access the property via Thompson Road. In addition, there is a proposed commercial area totaling 40,000 square feet of commercial space, but little details is given on the proposed uses.
  • The current county zoning of the property includes approximately 39 acres zoned LI, Low Intensity Use District, and the remaining approximately 106 acres zoned AG, Agricultural District. Given the minimum lot sizes established by the county, there could be a maximum of 39 homes built on the LI portion and 10 homes constructed on the AG portion for a total of 49 homes. The 730 dwellings are a dramatic increase in proposed density.

Additionally, Institute of Traffic Engineers formulas, the proposed development would generate roughly 7,000 vehicle trips per day on Thompson Road, excluding any trips related to the proposed commercial uses given the lack of information on them, the staff report states.

Roughly 4,900 of those daily vehicle trips would travel on the gravel portion of Thompson Road, crossing a single-lane bridge. That compares to the portion of Ga. 384 (Duncan Bridge Road) north of Ga. 365, which averaged 5,180 vehicles per day in 2017.

Because there is no county right-of-way on the gravel portion of Thompson Road, any upgrades would require the purchase of land from adjoining property owners, the staff analysis states.

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  • Associated Tags: Habersham County, Habersham County Commission, City of Baldwin, Baldwin, annexation, Baldwin City Council
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