Commissioners approve 967-home development

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County commissioners approved one of the largest subdivisions they have seen in several years Tuesday, but not before putting several restrictions on it.

Suwanee-based Touchstone Homes must wait 12 months before it starts building homes in the subdivision that will go in rural northeast Gwinnett near the Barrow County line, and it can only build 150 homes each year.

When finished, the development will have 967 homes on 462 acres between Mount Moriah, Clack and Mineral Springs roads.

No residents spoke against the rezoning Tuesday afternoon before commissioners approved it 4-1, with County Chairman Charles Bannister voting against it.

Bannister said he voted against the rezoning because the Atlanta Regional Commission had recommended against its approval. The 10-county planning agency frowned on the project because it did not include commercial development, which it contends would cut down on vehicle traffic by putting amenities close to the homes.

County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly, whose district holds the rezoned land, said putting a one-year hold on the homes gives the school system time to add more classrooms.

"That one-year delay means this project won't have any kids affecting the schools until 2008," Kenerly said.

He said the school system plans to build an elementary school, a middle school and a high school in the area by 2010.

"By the time this subdivision starts affecting (the) Dacula or Mill Creek (school clusters), they'll have new schools in there that will relieve a lot of these schools," Kenerly said.

Touchstone President Brian Cohen told commissioners last month that he expected to build 100 to 150 homes a year.

The low-density development would be built under the county's conservation subdivision rules, which require at least 40 percent of the site remain undisturbed.

In exchange for preserving trees, wetlands and other natural features, the developer gets to create smaller home lots.

The rezoning approved Tuesday was for 768 homes. A companion rezoning that would allow another 199 homes is slated for a Feb. 28 public hearing and vote before county commissioners.