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Saturday May 28th, 2022 6:06PM

Oft-tabled application finally gets rezoning approval for Lake Lanier rental community

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

GAINESVILLE – An application for rezoning that had been tabled five times finally made it to the finish line at Tuesday’s Hall County Commission meeting.

Described by the developer as an up-scale rental community when the application process began before the Hall County Planning Commission on July 6, 2021, “Waterside at Lake Lanier” ended the evening being tabled until August 2nd on the advice of Planning Commission Chairman Chris Braswell.  Braswell said he felt there were too many unknowns connected to the application.

Just weeks before that action the Planning Department staff gave the plan a solid thumbs-down, as well.  Planning staff members review applications internally before sending them on to the Planning Commission for its consideration.

FIDES Development was hoping to rezone 16.28-acres along the Big Creek shoreline of Lake Lanier from Agricultural-Residential-III (AR-III) and Vacation Cottage (V-C) to Planned Residential Development (PRD) to allow for the construction of a 305-unit mixed-use rental community.

When the application returned to the Planning Commission on August 2nd, the evening did not end well for the developer as the Planning Commission agreed unanimously to recommend the project for denial. 

The applicant, however, was determined to continue the process and the application came before the Hall County Commission on September 9th despite the recommendation to deny received from the Planning Commission.

That September 9th meeting began a series of tablings by Hall County that would allow the applicant additional time to make adjustments to his site plan and meet with area residents in an effort to respond to their concerns.

The September 9th hearing was tabled until September 23rd; the September 23rd hearing was tabled until October 28th; the October 28th hearing was tabled until November 10th; the November 10th hearing was tabled until November 30th.

Overall, the rezoning request was tabled five times and received a recommendation for denial from the Planning Department.  Nevertheless, the applicant pressed on (as is his legal right) and made adjustments to his site plan in the process.

Applicant John Hillman did not give up easily.  After several revisions and a reduction of 100-total units from his initial site plan, Hillman told commissioners, “Here we are tonight seeking approval of a rezoning to support our third version of our site plan.  The request tonight is to provide a rezoning to support a one-of-a-kind, high-end, rental, residential community.  We would expect rental ranges in this community to be from $2500 to $3000 per month.”

“The site as it exists today is vacant and unused.  It’s mostly abandoned trailers and mobile homes, and despite the property owner’s best attempt to keep transient individuals out of there…unfortunately it’s become a location for squatters and mischief makers,” Hillman added.

Several area residents spoke in opposition to the plan, focusing mostly on the unknown effect a rental environment could bring to the area.  Haywood Smith has lived on nearby Whidby Road for fifty years and she told commissioners, “This is not a good idea.  Like I said, if this was owner-occupied, if this was aged-restricted (development plan), I wouldn’t be standing here proposing that you deny.”

The time to decide had arrived and when the voting was finished FIDES Development got the rezoning it was seeking by a 4-1 margin.  Commissioner Shelley Echols cast the lone vote against the application.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: hall county commission, hall county planning commission
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