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Planners to hear industrial park rezonings

From Staff Reports

LAWRENCEVILLE - Plans for building hundreds of town houses and small-lot homes in an industrial park along Ga. Highway 316 have gotten the attention of area residents.

When rezonings that would allow 608 dwellings in the Gwinnett Progress Center came before county planning commissioners two weeks ago, no more than 20 opponents showed up.

When the zoning cases came before county commissioners and were tabled last week, about 50 homeowners and pilots were there despite it being after 11 p.m.

Their ranks could grow before Tuesday night, when planning commissioners are scheduled to consider more rezonings that would allow another 428 townhomes on land now zoned almost exclusively for industrial use.

Over the weekend, homeowners spearheading the opposition were to hand out hundreds of fliers in subdivisions and parks between Lawrenceville and Dacula.

That's in addition to e-mails that have already been flying between homeowner associations and PTAs, alerting residents and school parents to the proposed medium-density housing.

"We're doing a lot of work to mobilize all the people in the area," said Melissa Hansen, whose house on Blackberry Trail backs up to the giant industrial park.

Hansen said opposition runs from parents who are concerned with how the new homes would affect classroom overcrowding in the Dacula schools cluster, to airplane owners who worry the airport's operation could be curtailed by the homes that would go in Briscoe Field's flight path.

In paperwork filed with the county, the developers maintain the land should be rezoned to residential because it has no economic use as industrial land.

The county Planning Commission is recommending denial for the rezonings because the proposed development would conflict with the county's land use plan.

Unlike the Gwinnett Progress Center rezonings the County Commission held public hearings on last week, those on Tuesday's Planning Commission agenda are not part of a proposed lawsuit settlement.

However, one Tuesday rezoning is being reconsidered by the county as part of a consent order.

Last August the County Commission denied the rezoning sought by developer Emory Morsberger so he could put a restaurant on 1.3 acres beside U.S. Highway 78.

It was rejected after then-County Commissioner John Dunn said Morsberger and homeowners in the Lake Lucerne Estates subdivision had not sufficiently ironed out their differences on the project.

The move surprised both sides, and Morsberger later sued the County Commission, appealing its decision to the Gwinnett Superior Court.

Since then, county commissioners and Morsberger, who chairs the county Revitalization Task Force, have signed a consent order, which postpones a trial and sends the rezoning back for another round of public hearings and a second vote.

Weeks after the rezoning was denied, Morsberger's company said an auto parts store could go on the lakeside property that sets across the water from Lake Lucerne Estates - something that would be automatically allowed by the site's current zoning.

On Friday, Morsberger said he prefers to put an upscale restaurant on the tract.

Also Tuesday night, planning commissioners will consider a rezoning that would allow 199 townhomes on Alcovy Road, just south of Ga. Highway 316 and the city of Dacula. Although in the same part of Gwinnett County, the rezoning is not in the Gwinnett Progress Center.

Another rezoning, for 288 apartments and 112 townhomes on Plunketts Road next to the Buford city limits and Interstate 985, is in the path of the cross-county connector - a proposed local road that would follow the path of the now-defunct Northern Arc highway.

For a list of Tuesday night's rezoning cases, see the Business section.