Neely Pond proposals denied by commissioners

Thu, 11/19/2009 - 4:07pm
By: Ben Nelms

Neely Pond proposals denied by commissioners

Unlike last week’s public hearings, the two Neely Pond development proposals along Ga. Highway 16 just south of Sharpsburg came with no comment or discussion Tuesday night as Coweta County commissioners voted quickly and unanimously to deny both rezoning requests.

Essentially, and without comment, Commission Chairman Paul Poole on both agenda items made a motion that each be denied on the basis of recommendations by the county planning department. The votes were unanimous.

But it was at the public hearings on the topics at the Nov. 12 meeting where the applicants and the public had their say.

At that meeting, project representative Dennis Drewyer reviewed plans for the rezoning of 55.15 acres for the commercial phase of the development and the rezoning of 131 acres to accommodate the proposed 208-home subdivision. The properties are currently zoned RC (Rural Conservation). The request was made by Oakhall Properties, LLC, Thompson & Charlotte S. Lewis, Frank L. Neely, Jr. & John O. Neely.

The rezoning request for the Neely Pond at Johnson Crossroads commercial development was proposed for 55.15 acres on the west side of Ga. Highway 16 west of the intersection with Ga. Highway 54. Currently zoned RC, the request would have the property rezoned to Commercial Major Shopping Center (C-7).

Bordering Hwy. 16 on the south and west sides, the proposal included a 170,000 square-foot shopping center that would be anchored by a 90,000 square-foot grocery store, Drewyer said. Nine additional buildings ranging from 5,000-10,000 square feet would provide space for other retail shops, a restaurant, a drive-thru fast food operation, an auto parts store and a convenience store with gas pumps, he said. Drewyer said the proposed 170,000 square feet on the conceptual site plan represented only a maximum size and that it would likely not be developed to that extent.

In his presentation, Drewyer said the development would use about half of the acreage with sufficient acreage targeted for buffers to neighbors and streams. He added that the commercial component would include abundant greenspace. In terms of connectivity, Drewyer said that, while close to the Hwy. 54/Hwy. 16 intersection, there would be one entrance to the development, complete with a traffic light, situated west of the intersection.

As he did on several occasions throughout the presentation, Drewyer referenced the Twelve Parks commercial/residential development in east Coweta approved by commissioners in summer and fall of 2008. Specific to the commercial component Drewyer said Neely Pond would have a better level of access and connectivity than exists in the 77,500 square-foot Twelve Parks commercial component.

As hot a topic as any in the proposal was wastewater disposal. Drewyer said the commercial center would initially operate off a septic system until the municipal sewer system in the residential component was operational.

County planning staff, represented by Angela White, cited five reasons for recommending denial of the rezoning request. She said the potential scale of commercial development in a C-7 district is not consistent with the neighborhood-scale (20,000 square feet or less) commercial character recommended for the Infill Neighborhood areas. She said the adjoining residential areas would be overwhelmed by 170,000 square feet of commercial space. White also noted that such high-density commercial as found in C-7 zoning is not recommended for that area of Hwy. 16 and that it is not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

Citing other reasons for denying the request, White said the C-7 proposal would create an isolated district since the properties in the area are zoned residential. She also said the project would significantly impact traffic in the area and cited the potential for groundwater contamination from possible failures of the individual septic systems to be installed in the development.

Addressing the absence of a sewer usage study and responding to questions by Commissioner Rodney Brooks and others, Drewyer said the property should be rezoned before conducting the study and obtaining approval from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

“Twelve Parks was not approved by EPD when they got their rezoning,” Drewyer said, again referencing the east Coweta development. Drewyer also expressed a degree of consternation that county planning staff commented that the application for the joint Neely Pond developments had not included a central municipal sewer system. He maintained that such a sewer system would be located on the property and would be designed and owned by the county.

A number of area residents attended the commission meeting and several of those took to the podium Nov. 12 to voice their disapproval of the rezoning request. Residents cited increased traffic and potential septic failures as reasons for opposing the rezoning.

Commissioners at the Nov. 17 meeting heard Poole read the agenda item and immediately make a motion to deny the request. A unanimous vote followed with no discussion.

Drewyer at the Nov. 12 meeting also presented a rezoning request for the Neely Pond at Johnson Crossroads residential proposal. The 131.25-acre residential area is situated to the southwest of the proposed commercial development and was planned to connect to it by a roadway and greenspace. Except for its connection to the commercial component, the only access to the residential component would be along Neely Road.

Plans called for 208 single-family homes with approximately 1.6 units per acre. The concept plan allotted 38 percent greenspace and indicated that a minimum of 50 percent of the lots would abut or face greenspace, according to the conceptual plan.

The concept plan also includes an 8.09-acre pond, an amenity area with a swimming pool and, on the northwest corner of the development, a municipal, centralized sewer system.

Drewyer said the upscale homes would be in the craftsman or colonial style with exteriors such as masonry and cedar and upgraded interiors. The one-story homes would have a minimum of 1,800 square feet while the two-story homes would carry a 2,400 square-foot minimum. The one-story homes would be priced in the upper $300,000s with the two-story units at $400,000-600,000, he said after the meeting.

Once again making the comparison to Twelve Parks, Drewyer said Neely Pond would have 400 fewer homes than thesimilarly zoned Twelve Parks.

Citing four reasons for a recommendation of denial, White said the property does not have access to a centralized sewer system and has not been issued a permit by EPD. Such a system is required with RI-B zoning. She added that zoning the property prior to receiving EPD approval would create a forced variance for the centralized sewer system.

White said that given the low density and large lots in the area the project would create an isolated zoning district.

Finally, White said RI-B developments are required to be accessed by collector roads as opposed to local roads such as Neely Road.

Residents taking their turn at the podium cited their opposition in terms of increased traffic, damage to area properties if the wastewater plant failed, unacceptable increased density, the need to keep open land in the area and the potential for increased criminal activity due to the density.

As with the commercial component at the Nov. 17 meeting, Poole read the residential agenda item and made a motion to deny the rezoning request. The motion was followed by a second and a unanimous vote.

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