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County commissioners table high-rise rules

LAWRENCEVILLE - As far as Don Wilson and his neighbors are concerned, new rules being considered by Gwinnett County commissioners would allow high-rise condo towers too close to their homes.

For that reason, they think an area around Sugarloaf Parkway where high-rises would be allowed should, at the very least, be shrunk.

"We're opposed to where they want to put them," said Wilson, who lives in the 347-home Old Savannah Square subdivision off Old Peachtree Road.

Wilson and others will get more time to share their opinions with county commissioners, who voted Tuesday night to table the proposed high-rise regulations until Dec. 6.

The deferral, which had been decided upon before the meeting, occurred after only one person spoke for the new regulations, and only one person spoke against them.

As proposed, the rules would allow 25-story condo towers and mixed-use projects along heavily traveled roads in business centers that border Interstate 85, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Ga. Highway 316.

Areas along I-85 where the high-density development would be allowed are at Jimmy Carter Boulevard, the 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 beside the Lawrenceville city limits, and along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard between the DeKalb County line and Holcomb Bridge Road.

Ralph Kayser, an Old Savannah Square resident who spoke on behalf of a Sugarloaf homeowner network that encompasses 14 subdivisions, said the county did not do enough to make citizens aware of the proposed regulations.

He said he and other homeowners learned of the possible high-rise rules only 18 days ago. "We were shocked," he said.

Kayser said the Greater Sugarloaf Community Association does not necessarily oppose condo towers in the area that includes Discover Mills mall and the Gwinnett Civic Center, but changes will have to be made before homeowners are comfortable with them.

In addition, there are concerns about the impact the high-density development would have on roads, schools and other infrastructure, he said.

County Commissioner Lorraine Green, whose district includes Sugarloaf, has said she is undecided about keeping the business district on the list of possible high-rise areas.

She has said she prefers seeing high-rises used to foster revitalization, which would keep them in south Gwinnett where older parts of the county are fighting urban blight.

Speaking in favor of the high-rise rules, Michael Paris, the president of the Council for Quality Growth, told county commissioners they should not load the rules down with restrictions.

Doing so could discourage developers from undertaking condos towers, said Paris, whose Duluth-based group represents developers, builders, engineers and others involved in the growth industry.

Paris said the regulations dovetail with regional policies that call for funneling development to road corridors and business districts where infrastructure already exists.

A majority of county commissioners have said they support removing Hamilton Mill and Ga. 316 from the list of business districts where high-rises and mixed-use projects could go after developers get a rezoning.

Also Tuesday, county commissioners rezoned land in the Hamilton Mill area that has been the subject of bitterly contested rezoning for three years.

The original rezoning, which ended up in court, would have allowed a Publix-anchored shopping center. The one approved Tuesday for the land at Jim Moore and Auburn roads will permit offices on the rear and sides of the parcel, while a gas station and fast-food restaurant can go on the front along Auburn Road.