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Sugar Hill to consider down-zoning 15 acres

SUGAR HILL - A commercial/residential development proposed in June 2005 along Ga. Highway 20 didn't materialize. Now, four owners who had planned to sell their 15 acres on Benefield Road for a part of that development want their old residential zoning back. If it passes in July, the rezoning will allow construction of a 41- home neighborhood. Plans show 2,400-square-foot houses priced in the $350,000s on 10,000-square-foot lots at a density of 2.68 homes per acre.

The 15 acres would have been part of a much larger development. Fred Skiba and Georgia 20 Ventures proposed a 65-acre center with retail shopping along Ga. Highway 20 and residential homes behind it. The project involved annexing 23.5 acres from Gwinnett County. City Council members approved the project with planned residential development/general business zoning, resulting in some lots holding a split zoning.

Skiba purchased five lots, according to Lee Thompson, city attorney, then, for whatever reason, the project disintegrated.

"I've had mature people come to me and say, 'I can't afford the taxes on this general business zoning," said Bob Hail, city manager. "Their taxes have tripled."

Planned residential zoning is specific to the proposed project. The original project involved more than 20 property owners. If the rezoning had been approved in Monday's council meeting, it would have formed a hole in the property that would have affected many of the other lots. Councilmen tabled the rezoning request until July's meeting to give city officials time to notify the remaining affected property owners.

The 20-some property owners will be informed of the proposed rezoning by certified mail, according to Jane Whittington. City officials will help condense any zoning requests that may arise into one, rather than having more than 20 individual cases.

"Possibly the city can initiate a mass rezoning," Thompson said.

Only four or five people showed up to hear the case. Jennifer Myers of nearby Emerald Lake subdivision said she had concerns about increased traffic and the size of the buffer.

"They (other new communities) are raising our homes, value, and we appreciate that," Myers said. "But 41 homes mean at least 82 more cars on the road."

Millage rate

Sugar Hill's millage rate will remain at 3.8 mills. Taxes are calculated by multiplying the assessed value of a property by the millage. A mill is one-tenth of one cent. Councilman Marc Cohen, who proposed rolling back the millage rate, cast the lone opposing vote.

State water identified

The proposed Stone Water Subdivision remains on hold. The project was first halted when a construction worker graded beyond his boundaries. The development stayed quiet when a stream was discovered. Officials declared the stream a state water, since it crosses property lines, and extended the developer's filing deadline to June 23.

Equipment purchase approved

City councilmen approved spending $25,000 on communication equipment and installation for the upgraded City Hall annex, which will serve as permanent council chambers. The current audio system includes a tape recorder, speakers, microphones, overhead projector and projection screen. The $25,000 will buy and install a new LCD monitor for each council seat, new microphones with mute switches, two lecterns, two or three EDTV plasma screens for citizen viewing, a CD audio recorder and speakers distributed throughout the room.