The Gainesville City Council unanimously approved a rezoning request Tuesday night for 70 townhomes on Bentley Park Circle and Florence Drive.
These two-story townhomes from McKinley Homes US, LLC would replace a church building, its parking lot and two driveways. It will have 18 community guest parking spaces to ensure excess parking does not flow onto the streets. There will also be a pocket park, a children’s playground and a dog walking area.
The development failed to pass at the last city council meeting, but representative Steven Gilliam appealed the Gainesville City Council’s decision to the Hall County Superior Court. The court sent the proposal back to the Gainesville City Council for reconsideration.
Gilliam said that the initial proposal was for 77 townhomes, but developers agreed to lower the density to 70 townhomes.
“The density allowed under special use for this is eight to 12 units per acre,” Gilliam said. “The current proposal is only nine units per acre. So it's really on the bottom of what is allowed.”
Richmond Gardens resident Douglas Young and three other nearby residents expressed opposition to the development. Young said that additional traffic from the townhomes would add to the existing traffic from the nearby Free Chapel church and auto gallery.
He also expressed concern for the elderly residents, who often walk on Florence Drive.
“The street is so small is so narrow, it didn't even have a center yellow line until a few years ago,” Young said. “We still have no sidewalk on either side of the street. We have a very disproportionate, very high share of elderly residents, many of whom walk every day. We also have a lot of young starter families with small children who also walk on the street.”
However, Gilliam pointed out that the property would eventually be utilized for some sort of commercial purpose. According to him, it is easier to limit a townhome development’s growth.
“You can control it, you limited it to 70. If it's going to be an institutional or office park, you can't control it,” Gilliam said. “Somebody's going to come in and build it to what they want to do -- to max it out. An independent developer here is not the developer to max it out.”
Mayor Sam Couvillon stressed Gainesville’s need for more affordable housing.
“This is something that that is moving towards helping that need,” Couvillon said. “When I'm up here contemplating what's happening here, I started thinking, ‘what is the best use?’ And I would think that an office park or office building would provide more disturbance than another neighborhood.”