Planners wary of high-rises in some areas

LAWRENCEVILLE - Some Gwinnett planning commissioners are uncomfortable with allowing high-rise condo towers near the Mall of Georgia and in the Hamilton Mill area.

Under new regulations being considered by county officials, the 25-story buildings would be permitted in various places near Interstate 85 and other limited-access roads.

But at least three planning commissioners said during a special-called meeting Wednesday night said the two unincorporated areas furthest north are not ready for such high-density development.

"I think Hamilton Mill is still an emerging area," said Planning Commissioner Chuck Warbington. "Ten years from now maybe, but at this time it's way too early."

The proposed rules would permit high-rises in "major activity centers," or areas where businesses, shops, restaurants and offices and even entertainment venues are massed together.

Locations along I-85 where mixed-use projects and high-rises 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. Highway 316 near Ga. Highway 120, and along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard between the DeKalb County line and Holcomb Bridge Road.

Planning Commissioner Julianne Thompson said she supports allowing high-rise condos, but she thinks at this time they should only be allowed in older parts of the county targeted for revitalization.

At the very least, the Mall of Georgia and Hamilton Mill should be left off the list, she said.

"I don't see this going any further north than" the Sugarloaf area," Thompson said.

Hamilton Mill resident Tim Sullivan agreed. "It's too premature," Sullivan told planning commissioners.

No planning commissioners spoke against allowing residential condo towers in Gwinnett, but most had extra requirements they wanted added to the rules.

Some want to make developers create "common space" with plazas and fountains on their sites, while others wanted larger buffers between the towers and existing homes.

Others said they want thorough transportation studies and other reviews done before they consider rezoning land for the towers.

The Planning Commission will vote on the regulations next Tuesday.