UPDATE: Etowah Village is off the table

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The largest and most controversial development to come before the Dawson County Board of Commissioners in years is off the table.

Dawson Village Partners informed Dawson County Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley today (July 17) it has withdrawn its request to rezone more than 700 acres to build Etowah Village.

In a letter addressed to Kinley, Dawson Village Partners President Yong Pan wrote, “Upon careful consideration of the responses from the county planning committee and county board of commission one of our primary investors has decided not to proceed with the project.

“The compounding requirements and restrictions placed upon the project through the continuing zoning process especially the non-approval development on the property of west side of the river have exceeded his expectations to the point he  believes it is no longer in his best interest to pursue the project.”

The project was to include 338,000 square feet of retail space, 243,200 square feet of Class A office space, a convention and performing arts center, a site for a future fire station, a cultural center and public awareness of Chinese arts and gardens, four-story hotel, 800 units of multi-family housing (apartments), 180 units of single-family attached homes, 205 units of single-family detached homes, a continuing care center and 156 acres for parks and green space.

Unconfirmed reports of the withdrawal began to circulate on social media two days ago, but Kinley did not receive official notification until today, too late for the issue to be removed from the Board of Commissioners Thursday agenda.

All that remains now is the likelihood of commissioners voting to accept the withdrawal.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett expressed relief, saying, “This was just not a good fit for Dawson County. We do not have the infrastructure to support something like this.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “While this one is over for now the growth pressure on Dawson County inevitably will continue and I will continue to review and take the time to research each one and listen to citizen feedback in order to make the best decision for the community.”

Dava Hudgins, an outspoken opponent of the development said she is thrilled to receive the news. “While in theory, it sounded like a wonderful development, the reality is that it was just not the right fit for this county.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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BOC tables Dawson Village vote for 30 days

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County commissioners voted to place a rezoning request by Dawson Village Partners, LLC to build the largest development in county history on hold for 30 days last night (May 16).

The controversial project attracted very strong public participation. The meeting room was nearly full and two dozen Dawson County residents rose to share their views with commissioners. Eighteen opposed, eight supported.

Rod Bishoff

The project, if approved, would add 2,175 new residential units, 338,000 square feet of retail space and 242,000 square feet of office space to the county which, many argued would over burden the roads, law enforcement and public safety. It would be built on 777 acres from the intersection of Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground Road west to Etowah River Road before crossing Etowah River.

The county planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial to the Board of Commissioners based on the impact the development would have on the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens and the environmental impact on the Etowah River and flood plain.

Approval of a mixed use village is a two-part process. The initial phase calls for a concept plan in which the county looks at proposed uses, designates areas, open space, amenities, the road system, access points, location of streams and public and private streets for the development.

Dwight Roberts

If the concept is approved, the project would come back before commissioners who would then take a deeper dive into water and sewer locations, a stormwater plan, building areas and landscaping and architectural standards

Rod Bishoff, a retired developer who said he has developed property in Fulton, DeKalb, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, called the project a fantasy.

“These (developers) are doing a great job but not one of them is going to build a darn thing in this county,” he said. “Not one of them has any money to build these things. I have friends in the banking and insurance industries and not one of them knows anything about this project.”

He added, “Once you do this zoning, you open the door to a whole lot of problems. I think it’s a great idea, but you need the right people to do it with you. You need people to say, ‘this is my project. I’m here to build it with you.’ We don’t have that and that is a problem.”

Dava Hudgins said some part of the project would be built on a historic site.

“My ancestors opened a trading post on that site,” she said. “They married Cherokee women. There are Indian mounds there and I know where there are two different Indian burial grounds. It’s not just a flood plain. It is historically important.”

Dwight Roberts, a realtor, said he had not made up his mind before attending last night’s meeting. “I wanted to learn more and see more,” he said. “But after listening and knowing how many good people there are in the community and how concerned they are about this project, it makes me think they are probably right. There is something here that is precious. There is something here that should not be bought or sold. So, I just want to say that I am now against it.”

Tony Passarello

On the other side, Tony Passarello argued in favor of approving the project.

He pointed out the project complies with the county’s future land use plan (FLUP) and gives the county a way to manage the growth that is headed to Dawson County.

“Let’s assume that each of these properties were developed individually over the same time period according to their assigned zoning,” he said. “In this hypothetical scenario, there would be no zoning and planning commission hearing required. There would be no opportunity for citizen input, and in most cases, there would be no commission vote.”

Passarello then asked, “Is it not better to treat these 777 acres in a managed planned development with the scale, quality and vision of Etowah Village or piecemeal without continuity or vision.

In addition to planned management, he said the project presents a number of opportunities, including controlled growth over eight to 10 years, development of Dawson County as a destination spot, living wage jobs for decades and the opportunity to attract millenials and members of Generation X,

Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “When you look at the portion east of the river toward Ga. 400, the majority of that property is currently zoned where most of the pods (A,B,C,D,E, and F) they are requesting could be done without the approval of this Board.”

Those pods consist of retail space, office space, performing arts center, convenience center, 300-room luxury hotel, art museum, Asian garden and retirement community.

Thurmond said he could see the negative side of the project across the river. “You have flood plain issues that will require a floodplain analysis. It could require a bridge that may or may not get approved by the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers, and EPD. You have endangered species in the river that have to be taken into consideration. Most of that is outside the current zoning and land use plan. That’s a lot to think about when you look at the vast complexity of a project such as this.”

Thurmond’s motion to table the request for 30 days was unanimously approved.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City residents voice strong opposition to Ensite development

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawsonville residents packed the city hall meeting room during Monday’s City Council meeting to voice their opposition to a proposed development that would add 172 new residences on a 38.58 acre tract at 592 Hwy. 53 West.

The developer, Ensite Civil Consulting, LLC, has asked for the property to be rezoned from R-3 to Residential Planned Community to be marketed to senior citizens. However, before the meeting, Ensite asked for and received a postponement until the April 22 meeting.

Council did go ahead with the public hearing and seven area residents marched to the podium to explain why they don’t believe the development is in the best interests of the city. No one spoke in favor of the project.

Dava Hudgins spoke first to say the area is already heavily congested. “Add in this many more units they are requesting and this is going to be a dangerous intersection,” she said. “I don’t want another child in this county to wreck or be injured or killed because of poor planning where this road is concerned.”

Jeff Chastain, whose property is adjacent to the proposed development, expressed concern about an underground stream that crosses the property and flows into a branch which then feeds into Shoal Creek. Chastain said the runoff will damage the water quality and threaten endangered species.

“There is no way you can put 170 homes with two or three vehicles per home and keep the oil and gas and everything you’re going to get from that out of the waterway,” he said. “I don’t see how that is environmentally possible. This is beyond ridiculous. That is some of the cleanest water you will find around here.”

The planning commission unanimously recommended that council deny the request to rezone the property.

Councilman Mark French said, “I believe we should uphold the planning commission’s decision.”

He pointed out that if the residents are required to be 55-and older in a few years, many of the residents would be eligible for a senior tax exemption and sales tax generated by the development would be insufficient to pay for the additional services the city would have to provide. “I’m just concerned we would not be able to do that.”

While some opponents pointed out that the developer could not legally limit the sale of the units to non-senior citizens, City Attorney Dana Miles explained that under federal law, the City could do so.

“Under the Housing for Older Persons Act, there can be a requirement that (council) can put in by ordinance as a stipulation if you see fit to rezone this property,” he said. “It allows (government) to discriminate in the sale of housing units to people under 55. At least 80 percent of the residences must be owned by and lived in by someone 55 and older.”

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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