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Dacula mulls rezoning for Supercenter

LAWRENCEVILLE - Dacula City Hall could be busier than a Wal-Mart checkout lane Tuesday night.

That's when the city Planning Commission will consider rezoning 48 acres on Harbins Road so the discount retailer can build one of its 24-hour Supercenters there.

More than 250 people have visited City Hall in the past two weeks to study Wal-Mart's plans for the thickly wooded tract just south of Ga. Highway 316, said City Administrator Jim Osborn.

"It should be an interesting meeting," Osborn said. "I expect a high turnout."

The project would be Dacula's largest commercial development, and the amount of support and opposition seems to be split evenly down the middle, Osborn said.

Supporters say they want shopping opportunities closer to where they live, while critics mostly cite the potential impact on traffic.

Osborn, who handles land planning duties for the city, is recommending approval for the rezoning, which would switch most of the land's permitted use from industrial to commercial.

The rezoning complies with the city's future land-use plan, Osborn said in a report to the City Council, and the land's close proximity to Ga. 316 makes it suitable for commercial development.

He recommends several conditions be put on the development, many of them similar those around the Mall of Georgia.

For instance, Wal-Mart would have to leave a 15-foot landscaped strip along Harbins Road with trees sprouting from it, and landscaped islands would be required in the parking lot to help break up the asphalt. Sidewalks and decorative lampposts would also be required, and any buildings would have to be constructed of brick, stacked stone and stucco.

A 75-foot buffer of undisturbed land would also be required along any adjacent residential properties.

Wal-Mart has proposed adding a traffic signal at Harbins and West Drowning Creek roads, and it would install a turn lane to help vehicles get in and out of the development's three entrances, according to plans filed with the city.

The improvements should keep the Supercenter from exacerbating traffic and could even improve it in front of the store site, according to the city's rezoning review.

A traffic study conducted by Wal-Mart shows traffic improvements are also needed at Harbins and Alcovy roads and Ga. Highway 316. Most of those spots do not fall within the city's jurisdiction, the report states.

Also on Tuesday, planners will consider annexing 11 acres beside the Wal-Mart site.

Site plans for that spot now occupied by three homes and fields show a 95,000-square-foot commercial/retail building.

The 184,212-square-foot Wal-Mart would be Gwinnett's 13th. No. 12 is under construction on Hamilton Mill Road beside Interstate 85.

Wal-Mart would extend and widen West Drowning Creek Road, which would provide access to the Supercenter on one side and the proposed retail/commercial center on the other side.