The Gainesville City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the rezoning of an unused church on the southwest side of Dawsonville Highway and Beechwood Boulevard into a commercial development.
This 6.6-acre property would hold an auto lube shop and a fast-food restaurant near the front of the property. Interface Properties LLC has not yet designated what business will utilize the rear of the property. However, Interface Properties representative Tyler Smith suggested businesses that will not generate heavy traffic, like a daycare center or a kennel lodging service.
Residents of the nearby Beechwood Estates neighborhood were opposed to this development when the Gainesville Planning and Zoning Board met on March 9 to discuss the rezoning. Homeowners like Christine Osasu were concerned that traffic from these businesses would flow into their single-entrance and single-exit neighborhood. Osasu attended the Tuesday Gainesville City Council meeting to re-iterate traffic concerns.
“If these businesses are successful, or even if they're having a staffing shortage at the fast-food restaurant and the traffic builds up, there will be no way for us to exit our subdivision,” Osasu said. “Because there's no exit for all of these close to 65 occupied houses to get out except for that Beachwood Boulevard.”
Another woman represented her mother who lives in Beechwood Estates. She suggested altering the property’s planned layout, so the fast-food drive-thru exit would face Dawsonville Highway.
Smith said that this suggestion could be a possibility but was concerned that drivers would be unable to make a left turn into the development. He was also unsure if flipping the property would be feasible for the restaurant tenant.
“In terms of the location of that drive, there was some discussion about perhaps putting the location at the Beechwood Drive closer to Dawsonville Highway,” Smith said. “That came to us recently, we're exploring it. We don't have any answers on that yet and whether it would work.”
Smith said that the developers are exploring inter-parcel access between the new property and the adjacent Michaels craft store. This proposal is currently in negotiations between the developers and Michaels.
Council member Barbara B. Brooks added another condition that there must be a minimum 35-foot long, undisturbed buffer on the westerly property line. There also needs to be two rows of evergreen trees adjacent to the undisturbed buffer.
Smith estimates that construction would begin in 12 months. He was sympathetic to Beechwood Estates residents and mentioned that Interface Development avoided high-traffic businesses, like a grocery store or a gym.
“These particular commercial uses have lower traffic counts,” Smith said. “So we hope that that will mitigate the concerns of the residents, and we do understand the concerns.”