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Snellville denies North Road rezoning

SNELLVILLE - Following an hour of discussion both pro and con, Snellville City Council members voted to deny a rezoning request for 1.8 acres at the busy corner of North Road and Ridgedale Drive.

The applicant, Dr. Jimmy Balkcom, asked that the property be rezoned from residential to office and professional, planning to relocate his dental office to the property and accommodate other professional offices as well.

The concept plan Balkcom presented for the land had three buildings and a parking lot, although Balkcom said in Monday night's public hearing the number of offices to be built on the lot was negotiable. The 1.8-acre parcel is too much land for just one office, and having other tenants on the land would help offset the cost, according to the dentist.

Several homeowners spoke in opposition to Balkcom's proposed project. Mike Hopkins, a resident of the area for more than 20 years, said he and his family already deal with noise and light pollution from a nearby Kroger shopping center and a Wal-Mart.

"If you allow this (project) to go in, every residential property owner along Ridgedale will want to sell to commercial developers," said Hopkins.

Residents of Woodbury, a subdivision located across from the planned project, reminded council members that allowing the rezoning would constitute spot zoning and set a precedent for properties along Ridgedale Dive and North Road. Councilwoman Barbara Bender expressed her concern about commercial development spreading along Ridgedale Drive.

When the rezoning request came to a vote, Councilman Robert Jenkins moved to postpone the issue until the April 23 meeting, giving Balkcom time to re-draw his concept plan and address other concerns residents had raised. Councilman Warren Auld seconded Jenkins' motion, but postponement was voted down.

The rezoning was denied by vote. According to Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer, "This is a land-use issue. If we open up that side of North Road (to nonresidential development), the whole thing's blown open. It won't stop."

City ordinance regarding property maintenance tweaked

City Planning Director Jessica Roth outlined several revisions to Snellville's property maintenance ordinance that make the provisions clearer and give the law more teeth.

First, Snellville property owners must have a registered agent in Gwinnett County so law enforcement officials can more easily deliver citations.

"We've been having to serve in places as far out as Cobb County," said Chief of Police Roy Whitehead.

In addition, where the ordinance previously referred to "junk" vehicles, the revised version refers to "unauthorized" vehicles. Silt fences must be removed upon issuance of a certificate of occupancy or no more than 30 days after land stabilization, whichever comes first. Street and detention pond maintenance are also addressed in the revised text, as is the issue of parking vehicles in the front, side and rear of a house.

All of these revisions were approved and can be viewed on the city's Web site.