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Duluth OKs commercial center

DULUTH - The future gateway to the city of Duluth along Buford Highway will be an upscale commercial center instead of the lumberyard that sits at the corner of North Berkeley Lake Road and Buford Highway.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved a request by Foundation Development Group Inc. to rezone a 5.6-acre tract of this property from heavy industrial district to a planned commercial development to allow construction of Berkeley Depot Village, a 25,406-square-foot commercial center.

The property would also include a "Welcome to Duluth" sign.

Thomas Wells, a representative of the Foundation Development Group, said Berkeley Depot Village would include a QuikTrip, a bank and Old Berkeley Station, a retail building designed in a style reminiscent of an old railway station.

"This development would increase the tax base for the city through property and sales tax, provide additional services for the residents and improve the overall aesthetics of the gateway to the city, particularly with the Old Berkeley Station retail building," Wells said.

The City Council did place several conditions on the rezoning, most of which Wells said the group would have no problem complying. The only real sticking point was the pitch on the roof of the QuikTrip that did not conform to the city's design standards.

Craig Williams, a representative of QuikTrip, said of 105 QuikTrips in the Atlanta area, only two have pitched roofs.

"The pitched roof is limiting, and the two that are pitched actually have a second faux roof that had to be constructed. The one on Peachtree and Magness Ferry roads was done five years ago, but since then we have tried to stick to the flat roof which is part of the QuikTrip branding," Williams said.

However, the proposal by council member Maxine Garner that was unanimously approved included the requirement that the QuikTrip have a pitched roof in keeping with the design standards of the city.

"They have done it before so I don't see any reason for them not to do it in this case," Garner said.

In other business:

A request to rezone a 10.27-acre tract of land fronting River Green Parkway to make way for a private Catholic school, Notre Dame Academy, was withdrawn. The Aurora Theatre lease renewal was to be redrafted for a further 12 months with an increase in rent for the period. Representatives of the Aurora Theatre declined the option of a six-month renewal but did protest the increase in rent. The Aurora Theatre is moving to Lawrenceville at the end of 2006. The 2006 budget for the city of Duluth was unanimously adopted based on an unchanged millage rate of 5.191. However, this rate was tentative pending computations of the millage rollback rate from the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor's Office. City Clerk Teresa Lynn said there is an expected 20-day delay in the county tax bills.