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Delay likely in vote on high-rise rules

LAWRENCEVILLE - Don't expect a final decision Tuesday night on whether Gwinnett County will soon allow high-rise condo towers in business districts.

It appears county commissioners will delay a vote on new regulations that would allow the high-density projects, although a public hearing could still be held, commissioners said.

A number of factors are contributing to the deferral.

One county commissioner will be out of town, while at least one other needs more information about the rules that would let developers get rezonings for 25-story high-rises and mixed-use projects that blend shops, offices and residences.

"I'm not prepared to vote for it at this point. I have too many concerns that are unanswered," Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said.

Beaudreau declined to discuss those concerns in detail before Tuesday's meeting, but he did say the potential locations for high-rises and mixed-use projects are problematic.

"I'm proposing (Hamilton Mill) be eliminated, and I favor others being taken off as well," Beaudreau said.

Beaudreau has a more favorable view of allowing high-rises along Jimmy Carter Boulevard and in other older areas trying to fight off urban blight.

"It should be used as a tool for revitalization," he said. "It shouldn't be stuck out by the Mall of Georgia where it will further exacerbate traffic problems that already exist."

Commissioner Bert Nasuti, whose Norcross-area district includes Jimmy Carter Boulevard, said it is his understanding a public hearing will be held, but a decision on the rules will be postponed.

Although there has been little opposition to the high-rise regulations, much concern has been expressed about various details - things like the distance the buildings must set back from the property line, and whether developers should have to create greenspace with their projects.

"We have a lot of fine details to look at, and that is going to make our job more tedious," said Nasuti, who will miss the meeting because of a Thanksgiving trip.

Developers have already taken an interest in the proposed high-rise and mixed-use zoning rules. Officials say they have fielded inquiries about locations along Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Indian Trail Road and near Gwinnett Place Mall.

"I have had some people contact me and say they are interested in doing high-rises in the Jimmy Carter-Beaver Ruin (Road) area," Nasuti said. "I think that might be a good area."

The tall buildings would only be allowed in commercial areas that border Interstate 85, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Ga. Highway 316.

Under the current proposal, the areas along I-85 where the projects would be permitted are at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Gwinnett Place area, the Sugarloaf area, the Mall of Georgia and the Hamilton Mill area.

They would also be allowed on the north side of Ga. 316 at the Lawrenceville city limits and along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard between the DeKalb County line and Holcomb Bridge Road.

Only allowing them on heavily traveled roads in "major activity centers" would help protect established residential neighborhoods, county officials have said.

Before building high-rises or mixed-use projects, developers would have to get their land rezoned by county commissioners, who must hold public hearings on such requests.