Developers slow down in Gwinnett
Report: Development dropping in county

ATLANTA - Developers are no longer gorging on Gwinnett County land, according to a report from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Development of Gwinnett County's agricultural and forested land has dropped by about 62 percent in the two-year period from 2005 to 2007 compared to the previous two-year period, said Mike Carnathan, ARC researcher.

Development of green lands has dropped by 71 percent across the 13-county metro Atlanta area, the report said.

Urban sprawl has slowed but has not halted.

"Two main reasons for the decline are a decrease in housing construction - building permits are down 47.6 percent from last year - and an increase in redevelopment of existing areas or infill housing," Carnathan said. "Neither of these are unique to Gwinnett."

From 2003 to 2005, 6,005 acres of Gwinnett County land each year were converted from agricultural and forested lands into something else, mainly for residential uses with some commercial and industrial development, too, Carnathan said.

However, during the 2005-2007 period, only 2,297 green acres were developed per year.

"Since 1999, the first year we did this using this type of methodology, Gwinnett has averaged almost 5,000 acres converted each year," Carnathan said.

That's roughly eight square miles.

ARC researchers study aerial photographs to determine those numbers.

"I think that major developers began to see that the market was becoming overbuilt more than a year or two ago," said Dan Reuter, the ARC's land use planning chief.

"So I think they reduced their land holdings or stopped purchasing and clearing new land."

The slower clearing of raw land could be the first sign of a changing residential market, Reuter said.

"Some planners think that the growth in the residential market in the future will be from baby boomers retiring, smaller families, singles waiting longer to marry, that could mean less need for single-family homes in suburban settings," Reuter said.