County, city differ over annexation

LAWRENCEVILLE - An annexation and rezoning request being considered by the city of Dacula has angered some county officials.

Developers got the county commission to rezone the land on Alcovy Road last summer for a conservation subdivision, but now they are asking Dacula to annex it and rezone it for a similar type of subdivision.

County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau says the developers have approached the city because they want to avoid development standards the county put on the 99 acres.

Beaudreau said he and two county planning commissioners worked hard with residents and the developers to come up with the standards, which require a 300-foot buffer along the Alcovy River and the preservation of specific trees.

Also, to give the school system time to alleviate school overcrowding, the county commission mandated the developers wait 18 months before they start building homes.

If the land is placed in the city, the developers, Parkwood Partners, will not have to do those things, said Beaudreau, who also criticized the city and its annexation practices.

"This is nothing but an example of out and out greed, G-R-E-E-D," Beaudreau said. "They want more (home) lots than we can give them and they don't want to have to worry about the river buffer.

"If the city of Dacula wants to step forward and say they are for faster growth and for overcrowding our schools in Dacula, they can go right ahead and do that."

Beaudreau said the Alcovy River is being damaged by development, which is causing its banks to crumble and wash away.

"It makes you want to throw up," he said. "I will do everything legal and possible to protect our rivers. If the mayor doesn't want that, God bless him."

Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said the city's conservation subdivision standards are on par, if not higher than, the county's.

As for the special requirements put on the property by Beaudreau, Wilbanks said requiring developers to leave a 300-foot buffer of undisturbed land beside the river is extreme.

"I've never heard of a 300-foot buffer," Wilbanks said.

The state mandates a 75-foot buffer, and the city will probably require another 20 feet be left untouched so it can be used for a county greenway trail that would follow the Alcovy River.

"It will be a much more reasonable buffer, we believe," Wilbanks said.

The smaller buffer would let the developers build about 19 more homes than they could in the unincorporated county, Wilbanks said. Beaudreau said the city would add dozens of new homes to the project.

Beaudreau is also unhappy that the homes would be smaller. He mandated 2,200-square-foot one-story homes and 2,500-square-foot two-story homes. He also stipulated that at least 75 homes be bricked on three sides.

Dacula's conservation subdivision rules require single-story homes to be 1,800 square feet, and two-story homes to be 2,000 square feet, Wilbanks said. However, the city requires larger home lots and wider streets, he added.

Either way, the Dacula Planning Commission is slated to hold a public hearing and vote on the annexation request Monday night. If it is not tabled, the City Council will consider it Thursday.

Beaudreau said the pending annexation is indicative of a larger problem with Dacula's taking in land and then rezoning it for a higher intensity use than the county would.

Taxpayers have to pick up the tab for infrastructure and service upgrades necessitated by the growth, including roads and more police officers, Beaudreau said.

"It's not me versus the mayor," he said. "It's the citizens that are getting wronged here. I just happen to be the one representing them."