Deny Hamilton Mill/Pucketts Mill Rezoning and Special Use Requests
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A developer has petitioned the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners with a request to change the zoning of a 4.24 acre parcel located at the corner of Hamilton Mill and Pucketts Mill Roads. The parcel is currently zoned as RA-200 (Agriculture-Residence District) and the petitioners would like to have it changed to C-1 (Neighborhood Business District). The petitioners have also requested a Special Use Permit to allow businesses with Drive-Thrus at the site. The petitioner's current plan is to develop the site with at least one Drive-Thru fast food restaurant (currently proposed as a Dairy Queen), a second restaurant (potentially a sit-down style), and a two story commercial building with retail on the main level and office space on the second level. This rezoning request would also require re-routing Pucketts Mill so it would intersect Hamilton Mill Road across from the Cascade Falls neighborhood.
We are opposed to the granting of this rezoning request and Special Use Permit. Historically the current location of Puckett's Mill has been the dividing line between the commercial development clustered near I-85 and the residential development west on Hamilton Mill. Allowing this type of development here will fundamentally change the character of Hamilton Mill Road by erasing the buffer that currently exists between the different land uses. From the proposed plans, the entire property will practically be cleared of any vegetation and trees and replaced with asphalt parking lots, buildings, and a storm water retention pond on the southern portion (farthest from Hamilton Mill) of the site. Currently this lot is overgrown (or was until recent activity to clear some of the vegetation occurred) and has several large trees on the property. This greenery has served as a transition from the commercially developed areas of Hamilton Mill to the subdivisions and residences. Allowing the request also creates a dangerous precedent that will potentially encourage other developers to petition the Board for further variances and Special Use Permits along Hamilton Mill, further erasing the rural/undeveloped countryside that the community appreciates.
With this potential development and change in character of the area also comes potentially detrimental effects on the residential property values as well as quality of life. The proposed C-1 zoning for the property introduces a variety of sanctioned developments, which have unlimited hours of operation and building size. One of the proposed establishments is a Dairy Queen with a Drive-Thru. There are two Dairy Queens in the Buford area, one is 5.4 miles from the proposed location (Mall of Georgia) and the other is 6.3 miles down Hamilton Mill (at the Buford Highway intersection). The Dairy Queen at Buford Highway is a freestanding building (like the one proposed) and operates until 10pm Sundays through Thursdays and until 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Allowing a business that could potentially operate well into the evening hours adjacent to residential properties would be a monumental change for these residences. Furthermore, there is no guarantee of any specific businesses occupying this property, once the approval for the zoning change is given, the damage has been done and there are substantially fewer recourses that can be sought to undo or prevent certain businesses from occupying the property.
Traffic is also a huge concern for the local citizenry. According to the petitioner's plans, the site will include a "right turn only access and exit onto Hamilton Mill Road." This type of access is currently what is in place just 300 feet from this site for access to the Chevron gas station/dry cleaners/Sherwin Williams Paint businesses. Every day, people make left hand turns into and out of these establishments' parking lots. To do so they illegally cross solid yellow double lines on Hamilton Mill, even though legal left hand turns are afforded to them at the current Puckett's Mill/Hamilton Mill intersection (complete with a left hand turn lane off of Hamilton Mill). If there is abuse of the “right turn only access and exit” facilities next door, how are we to expect anything better from this development? Approving a fast food restaurant with a Drive-Thru (and potentially a second one, according to the proposal) with a curb cut along Hamilton Mill for these “right turn only access and exit” will create even more traffic frustration, especially given the increased number of vehicles that will potentially be accessing the property. It is understood that there are future plans to address traffic congestion issues on Hamilton Mill and Pucketts Mill, including potentially widening Hamilton Mill and installing traffic lights. However, it is our concern that allowing the proposed development may put the cart before the horse, creating a traffic nightmare where an already complicated traffic pattern exists.
An additional concern is the flooded market of available retail and office space in the area. Within a mile in either direction of the site are seven retail/office space commercially developed centers (one at the Hamilton Mill/Pucketts Mill intersection, four near the Hamilton Mill/Sardis Church intersection, and two near the Hamilton Mill/Ridge Road intersection). These centers all have vacancies within them. To add an additional retail/commercial two story building in this location at this time seems to be inappropriate from a planning and development standpoint. There is simply no need for such a space.
We are not opposed to development of this location. The lot has sat neglected with a crumbling, vacant residence and overgrown vegetation for several years. This condition is also not reflective of the values and desires for the future growth of our community. But simply because someone has a development proposal to enact at the site doesn’t mean that it is necessarily an appropriate action to take. We respectfully insist that the community be afforded input into the creation of these plans to bring SMART improvement that is WARRANTED in our community.
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