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Homes OK'd in Suwanee Old Town

SUWANEE - The quaint, historical downtown area is about to receive 14 more families.

A controversial rezoning of 2.5 acres passed unanimously in Thursday's City Council meeting.

The development site includes the entire block fronting Scales Road, Scales Street and Jackson Street. Four houses stand on the property.

The acreage is owned by William Chastain and Susan Rigdon.

Plans show 14 two-story homes with about 2,500 square feet of living space fronting Jackson Street and Scales Street opposite the United Methodist Church.

Step-up front porches, picket fences and decorative lighting will distinguish the area. Mainstreet Builders agreed to pave Jackson Street and convert it into a one-way street south to north. Eighteen on-street parallel parking spaces will be constructed on all three streets.

The property is located in Suwanee's original downtown in an established area. Suwanee United Methodist Church, various shops and offices, and several single-family homes surround the site.

Seven residents and business owners spoke in favor of the development on the grounds that it would increase their property values and bring vitality to the area.

"The ability to take a vision and get it off the ground is what separates Suwanee from other cities," said Dave Williams, former city councilman who helped draft Suwanee's Master Plan that targets the Old Town area.

Toby Blackwell, a Main Street insurance agent, said it would give the area a huge jump start.

"If this development is not approved, then what does the city want?" Blackwell asked council members.

Suwanee's Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that council members deny the project. Three local residents spoke against the development.

"The Old Town atmosphere is precious and different from other towns," said Dave Plummer. "The proposed houses are not in keeping with the ambiance."

John Gorman, a 14-year resident, warned council members against changing the area's character.

"This proposal mows down a block of Old Town," Gorman said. "Once its character is gone, you will never get it back, and that will be this council's legacy."

Suwanee has been on a building spree in the last five years with much of that effort concentrated along Ga. Highway 23 and Main Street. The Master Plan shows a network of sidewalks and a $1.1 million pedestrian pass under the railroad connecting the Old Town area with Town Center Park.

In the last two years, Old Town has gotten a new library building, PlayTown Suwanee park, a new Korean Presbyterian Church building and two new office buildings in the 600 block of Main Street.

A historic structure at the corner of Scales and Main streets was recently renovated by a private investor, and the black cemetery on Jackson Street is being renewed.

Council members said they approved the project to allow the Old Town district to move forward.

"We worked years to craft the master plan to make things happen, and nothing ever did," Councilman Jimmy Burnette said. "Here was an opportunity to get things moving and we took advantage of it."

Councilman Alan Landers saw only positives in the development.

"It will stimulate the local economy," Landers said. "I don't see any negatives."