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Moratorium affects school's plans to move to Suwanee

LAWRENCEVILLE - The president of a three-year-old Catholic school is worried that a building moratorium in Suwanee will keep it from moving its campus to the city.

Debra Orr, the president of Notre Dame Academy in Duluth, said the school has 37 acres on Moore Road under contract and hopes to build a permanent campus in Suwanee. It is currently housed in the River Green office park.

Orr said 48 hours after the school received verbal permission to develop on the land - which is zoned for houses but allows schools and some other institutions to build without getting property rezoned - the city council called a special meeting to pass a moratorium that stopped non-residential uses in neighborhood districts. That happened in late February.

Tuesday, the Suwanee planning commission was set to consider an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would require schools, churches and other buildings larger than 20,000 square feet to receive a permit before building in the residential areas where they were formerly allowed.

"We're kind of in a holding pattern now," Orr said. "I really just don't understand their actions."

Dave Williams, Suwanee's mayor, said the amendment is in response to work on the city's 2030 comprehensive plan. Residents want to preserve the nature of their neighborhoods, he said, and requiring the permits will give the city the ability to oversee what could come to an area.

He said no decisions were made because of the school, which has not yet submitted any plans for the land.

"It's premature. At this point, there is no application," Williams said. "At this point, there isn't a school discussion taking place."