Norcross OKs high-density zoning for 1.55 acres

NORCROSS - City Council members voted Tuesday night to rezone 1.55 acres on Wingo Street (182, 208, 212 and 238 Wingo St.) from medium density RM-75 to high density RM-10. This decision negates the land-use plan map designation for those properties decided just a couple of months ago.

The developer who requested the rezoning, George Banks, is proposing a cottage community of 15 homes on the 1.55 acres. The city of Norcross actually owns the homes there now and charged the Downtown Development Authority to solicit and review proposals from interested developers more than a year ago. Banks' plan was OK'd by the DDA as the best solution for the property.

Banks plans to leave and refurbish two of the cottages, 182 and 238 Wingo St. and demolish the other two, 208 and 212 Wingo St. His plans also specify a common green space, creating a small pocket neighborhood. The homes will have 5- to 10-foot-long front yards, one parking space adjacent to each property and detached covered parking along the perimeter of the development. "This property has specific design challenges, and this is the best solution to meet all needs," said Banks. The design challenges are a fire station which will border the property on one side, the city shed on another and an auto repair shop on another side.

"This community and the design of the houses fits well with the period cottages there now," said Banks. He proposed 1,250- to 1,300-square-foot homes targeted to one- and two-person households. The homes "will also feature a high level of detail, including 9-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, large windows and skylights," according to Banks.

Several residents spoke in favor of the cottage community, and city Planning Director Johnny Lawler recommended approval of the rezoning request. Tuesday night's vote was strictly about rezoning, but Banks said that the RM-10 designation was critical to making this development work. DDA chairman Rob Buck endorsed Banks' plan.

Residents who spoke in opposition to the rezoning cited the high density and parking concerns as their two main arguments. Anne Webb, president of Save Historic Norcross, questioned whether the advertising of the transaction was properly published. Chuck Cimarik reminded Mayor Lillian Webb and the council members that the city's land-use map (finalized only a few months ago) specifically designates this property as medium density, not high density. Webb agreed, saying "(rezoning this property to high density) treads on setting a dangerous precedent. We do not take it lightly."

Councilman Mike Lovelady suggested rezoning the property to RM-8, with the condition that no more than seven units per acre be built. His motion did not carry. After further discussion, councilman Tim Hopton moved to approve the rezoning with conditions, but councilman Bruce Smith again tried to lower the density by suggesting an RM-8 designation. The move was voted down 3-2. Hopton's original motion to rezone to RM-10 with conditions prevailed by a vote of 3-2, with Smith and Lovelady casting the two no votes.

The conditions of the rezoning are: No more than 13 new homes, two refurbished Minimum 1300 sq. ft. homes Single family detached homes only Specimen trees to be preserved, with the exception of one (specimen trees are 28" or more in diameter) No on-street parking 20 covered parking spaces to be provided There must be a valid conveyance of rights to acquire the property

New city clerk sworn in

Susan Brooks took her oath of office Tuesday night as Norcross' new city clerk. Brooks has 14 years of experience with the city of Royston.