Suwanee annexes land, rezones for townhomes

SUWANEE - A townhome community will be built at 192 Old Peachtree Road on 42 acres that would have held an industrial facility.

City council members voted Tuesday to annex and rezone property that was the focus of a 2001 lawsuit.

In August 2001, Hathaway Development Co. asked the council to rezone a 37-acre tract, plus annex and rezone an additional 4.5 acres, from light industrial to multi-family residential zoning to allow construction of a 334 apartment complex. City council members denied the request in October 2001. Representatives for Hathaway Development sued the city, claiming the existing zoning was unconstitutional, because the owner was unable to sell the property because of its zoning classification. Gwinnett Superior Court Judge Timothy Hamil agreed and sent the rezoning request back to Suwanee for reconsideration.

Suwanee responded by allowing townhome construction, rather than apartments, with an attached list of conditions. The stipulation most disagreeable to the developer was that all garages must be rear-entry. Once again, the owner, Ronald Stephens, claimed he could not sell the property.

"My client feels he is being punished with restrictive conditions for having taken the city to court," said Gerald Davidson, attorney.

A stream flowing across the property and uneven topography caused concern for industrial developers. Davidson reminded city council members that Stephens "has always been open-minded about donating that area to the city as greenspace."

City council members voted to annex and rezone the property, changing the number of required rear-entry garages to 50 percent. Hathaway Development will build eight brick-exterior townhomes per acre, each with 1,500 square feet of heated space. The area is surrounded by light-industrial-type businesses. The nearest townhome development stands at the intersection of Collins Hill Road and Old Peachtree Road.