County buys 33 acres to end lawsuit

LAWRENCEVILLE - Despite the objections of a commissioner, Gwinnett officials approved a $2.3 million purchase of 33 acres of land to end a rezoning lawsuit.

The land, which is on Givens Road and adjacent to the 297-acre Palm Creek Park site in the Harbins area, was valued at about $33,000 per acre by a county-approved appraiser.

But Commissioner Mike Beaudreau balked at the agreement to buy the land from Falcon Investments at a price of $69,000 per acre, based on an appraisal from the owner.

"This is nothing but corporate welfare," said Beaudreau, who represents the area. "I can't support paying twice the price for the land."

Along with Chairman Charles Bannister and Commissioner Bert Nasuti, Commissioner Kevin Kenerly supported the purchase, but he said he was concerned that recent appraisals showed "unbelievable" discrepancies in land values across the county.

Bannister said the price was fair, since land in the area was valued at more than $100,000 an acre during the county's construction boom.

"Our business is to do what's best for Gwinnett County in adding to the parks," he said. "(Nearby residents) would much rather have the park than the residential."

The tract was the subject of a lawsuit after Beaudreau and the commission rejected a proposed rezoning to build homes on the land last year.