GAINESVILLE – A rezoning application for an historic building in the New Holland community was given conditional approval by the Hall County Commission but it didn’t come easy for the applicant.
Shortly after the application of property owner and physical therapist Warner Brock was first submitted in September two “conditions” were attached to the request by the Hall County Planning Department staff. That number swelled to fourteen conditions by the time Hall County Commissioners cast their decisive votes Wednesday evening.
New Holland Parlor in the historic New Holland Mill community was opened about a century ago according to Vic Wilson of Flowery Branch who spoke in support of the effort to turn a portion of the former community center into an event center.
“It opened somewhere around the spring of 1921,” Wilson said. “The groundbreaking ceremony was July 4, 1918, in the middle of a pandemic.” Wilson was referring to the Spanish Flu pandemic that took the lives of an estimated 50-million people worldwide according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The two-story red-brick building with a four-sided clock tower looms visibly over Jesse Jewell Parkway at the thoroughfare’s intersection with Spring Street and currently serves as the home of Lanier Therapy in Motion.
Wilson said as a young boy he loved making trips to the community center. He said the owners of Milliken Mills, directly across Jesse Jewell Parkway from the building, constructed the facility as an off-time outlet for its employees and their families. “It was meant for the hardworking people in the mill to come and get recreation and to socialize,” Wilson said.
Betsy House works at Lanier Therapy and told commissioners that much of the building’s floor space is unused. She said she asked Brock if she could clean out an empty area in the back of the building and use it as a place to hold her daughter’s wedding shower. Brock consented.
“It had one light bulb and it was busted,” House said. “Basically we just started pealing layers off of the walls and this beautiful room just blossomed…and we couldn’t believe it.”
Soon requests to rent that renovated space came to the therapy business. Brock and House tried to accommodate those requests but soon found out they didn’t have the correct zoning to continue doing so.
While House in particular has a self-professed passion to further renovate the historic building and use the added space as a venue for small events, many of the nearby residents are not so excited.
Jody Schuler lives across the street and he says loud music and the use of fireworks disturbs his peace. He says on New Year’s Eve gunfire erupted on the property, “I heard ten to twelve gun shots. That was the last straw for me,” Schuler said.
Frank Norton, Jr. owns rental property next door to the Parlor and he says one tenant has moved out because of the loud noise and other tenants have complained to him that their parking spaces are being used by those attending functions at the facility.
Other neighbors sent emails to commissioners expressing similar concerns, hence the move by commission members to increase conditions on the rezoning approval including a “three strikes and you’re out” condition that holds the applicant’s business license at risk.
Brock and House agreed to the conditions placed on the application; commissioners then agreed to approving the rezoning application.
100-house subdivision coming to Swansey Road
Commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning application made by Aspen Holdings, LLC, of Atlanta Wednesday evening, clearing the way for a 100-home subdivision to be built just south of the Vulcan Stone Quarry on Friendship Road.
Developers of the 40.85-acre property agreed to several additional conditions requested by commissioners Wednesday evening before receiving a unanimous approval.
Brian Rochester of Gainesville, representing the developer, said that while the rezoning request was initially recommended for denial by the Hall County Planning Department staff last year, the interim period gave the developer and county staff-members time to resolve issues.
“As we went through this process,” Rochester told members of the Hall County Commission, “I think we worked with staff and came up with a way that maybe made this a little more palatable.”
Rochester said he also had the opportunity to meet with several concerned neighbors and address the concerns they expressed before the Hall County Planning Commission in December.