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Dacula council approves rezoning for senior housing project

DACULA - Dacula City Council members voted unanimously Thursday night to amend the city's zoning ordinance to include a new R-SR Senior Oriented Residential District.

The new zoning designation provides for specialized communities with at least 80 percent of the homes having at least one resident 55 years of age. City Administrator Jim Osborn said that the city's provision is much like the county's for senior housing zoning.

Communities developed under the R-SR zoning should be built within close proximity to commercial areas and be near city amenities such as parks and libraries. Seniors will be able to walk or drive short distances as a result. Dacula's R-SR zoning designation also requires that homes be 1,600 to 1,800 square feet, one-story dwellings with wider doorways and few steps. Landscape and architectural guidelines are tailored to seniors' needs, and a homeowners' association is required in each R-SR community.

Annexation and R-SR Rezoning approved

Immediately following the City Council's approval of the R-SR zoning designation, a public hearing was held regarding annexation of 21.21 acres on Harbins Road and rezoning of that parcel of land to R-SR.

Jack Wilson, representing applicants Larry Freeman and Marvin Hewatt, said that the Harbins Road location is a good one for senior housing. "The idea is to keep seniors in Dacula," Wilson said. "This zoning is already popular in Gwinnett."

Denise Griffin's mother lives in Dacula. "Seniors in traditional subdivisions tend to get isolated. There is a pent-up market demand for this very thing," Griffin said.

But some city residents opposed using that tract of land for a senior-oriented community, citing the dangerous traffic conditions on Harbins Road.

Dacula resident Bobby Williams spoke in opposition to building a senior community along "dead man's curve," as that stretch of Harbins Road is commonly referred to by area residents.

"There are 800 homes and a super Wal-Mart being built near here. That will only make traffic along Harbins more dangerous," Williams said.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau voiced his opposition not to the annexation but to the planned density of the community. There will be 128 homes on the 21.21 acres.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this is not a good location for this type subdivision," Beaudreau said. "It should be more infill development."

The commissioner also pointed out that the city and county should confer and agree on future land use.

Gwinnett County sent a letter to city officials officially objecting to the proposed use of the land, citing additional strain on county resources and infrastructure.

Others who oppose building a senior community on this tract of land said that the location is not near a commercial area or city amenities, as the zoning designation requires.

The council's vote to approve both the annexation and the rezoning were tied. Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks cast the deciding "yes" vote in both cases.

Wilson estimated that construction on the project will begin this time next year.

Rezoning approved;

antique shop planned for old Victorian house

Dacula resident and property owner Bobby Wilson petitioned the mayor and council Thursday to allow commercial zoning of 1.39 acres in the city. Wilson owns a restored Victorian house on the property and has not been able to find a "suitable tenant" in a year.

"My wife is in the antique business," said Wilson, who plans to use the house as an antiques and interior design shop under commercial zoning provisions.

"We want to name it the 'Heart of Dacula Antiques and Interior Shop.'" The house has already been brought up to code for use as a commercial building.

Wilson plans a post-Thanksgiving opening of the shop.

City council members voted unanimously to rezone the property to C-1 Neighborhood Commercial zoning.