FLOWERY BRANCH – A request to rezone a portion of Flowery Branch’s largest residential neighborhood once again came under question and close scrutiny by the Flowery Branch City Council during its work session Thursday evening.
Chris Whittaker of Newland Development (NNP-Looper Lake, LLC) again fielded a variety of questions from council members about what could/would happen if an 85.6-acre section of Sterling on The Lake is rezoned and set apart as a private sub-community.
On August 6th this “Modified Planned Unit Development” rezoning request was first brought before the city council, and after 90-minutes of discussion Whittaker agreed to find the answers to five main concerns expressed by council members, all of whom, including the mayor, live in Sterling on The Lake.
Whittaker attempted to present answers to those five questions Thursday evening but with mixed results.
The area in the rezoning application is currently known as the Honeycutt Tract; it will have 214 building sites and be branded as “The Retreat”. The targeted market for the subdivision-within-a-subdivision is active senior-adults according to Brian Rochester of Rochester and Associates in Gainesville, who spoke Thursday evening alongside Whittaker.
“In most every active adult, age-restricted community that I have done they are gated, and that’s a preference of the buyer,” Rochester told council members.
But the crux of concern for council members is what might happen if the plan for a unique community within SOTL did not work out as planned, or if the sub-Home Owner Association went into default.
Access into The Retreat would be through a security gate, and the 1.3-miles of roadway in the segregated parcel would be private, making their maintenance the responsibility of the sub-HOA.
The annual HOA dues for those in the private enclave would be $3300. That includes the standard $1200 fee everyone in SOTL pays plus an additional $2100 for the right to live in the private community.
Because Retreat homeowners would be responsible for maintaining the private roads and other common areas within the exclusive community (such as a private pool and clubhouse), what if, council members asked, that plan didn’t work, or the developer was unable to sell enough home sites in the development to make the plan solvent. What if the sub-HOA couldn’t pay its bills?
Rochester said, “In almost forty years of doing this…I’ve never had a gated community go defunct. Even in the midst of…the worst economic downturn we saw in 2007-2010, we didn’t have a single gated HOA go under.”
Mayor Mike Miller said he had been contacted by numerous SOTL residents, concerned that if The Retreat HOA failed then the other homeowners in SOTL would be responsible for their debts.
“The reservations that I have with this,” Miller began, “are based on the history of how Newland has handled the master HOA. It feels as though Newland has not been forthright, forthcoming with information to the residents.”
“The legal papers now say that you can just give it (The Retreat) back to the big HOA and put the other 1800 homeowners on the hook for (The Retreat),” Miller said. “That’s my big thing, the other 1800 homeowners, what’s their protection from an ‘opps!’?”
The rezoning request will be heard again on Thursday, September 17th when the city council meets for both a work session and a voting session at 6 p.m. Public comment is welcomed at the meeting.