Dacula residents protest Kroger

DACULA - Monday night's Planning and Zoning meeting in Dacula was standing room only, as residents voiced their opposition to a proposed retail development anchored by a 92,000 square-foot Kroger.

Dacula Market, the name of the proposed development, will house 15 specialty shops and restaurants along with the supermarket giant.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted to approve rezoning 14.036 acres owned by Hebron Church from R-1400 CZP (zoned for the church) to C3 (Central Business and Heavy Commercial). Board members also rezoned 3.47 acres adjacent to that property for the same use.

J.R. Connolly, president and CEO of Connolly Realty Services, addressed the raucous crowd to explain why the location chosen by Kroger was the best in the city for a new store. According to Connolly, there are about 30,000 residents within about a 3-mile radius of the location. Up to 400 people will be employed full-time in the retail center, and 50 to 75 construction workers will be put to work. The development will result in up to $400,000 in property taxes for the city and about $2.5 million in sales tax.

"This will be a very, very nice looking development," said Connolly, referring to the architectural design and generous landscaping that is part of the project. "We've been trying for about six years to build a new unit in Dacula, and this is the perfect location."

Most residents did not see it that way, as only one person spoke in favor of the project. The residents who oppose the development argued that traffic congestion is already a problem at the corner of Dacula Road and Fence Road, where Dacula Market will be located if the City Council approves the rezoning in May.

Others said they were worried about the safety of the children at Dacula Elementary School, since traffic congestion is already a problem there.

Three-acre Lake, located on the property in question, will be drained for the project. While many residents are upset over losing the lake, the Army Corps of Engineers took two years to review the development, approve draining the lake and detail mandatory improvements to surrounding creeks and wetlands.

Tony Roberts, a 25-year resident of Dacula, said Monday that he is not against Kroger, just the chosen location for the store.

"The hometown environment of Dacula is going away," Roberts said.

Board members voted to approve the rezoning request and pass the matter on to mayor Jimmy Wilbanks and council members next week.

Many walked out of the meeting shouting in protest.

If the Kroger is approved, it should open in the fall of 2010.