Dacula gives go-ahead to controversial Kroger

DACULA - All but one City Council member in Dacula voted to approve the rezoning of 17.51 acres along Fence and Dacula roads to accommodate a large-scale retail development anchored by a Kroger store.

The Kroger will be a 92,400-square-foot supermarket, almost twice as big as the average Kroger store in Georgia.

Councilman Gregory Reeves cast the only vote against the rezoning, saying that city leaders should be "visionaries," and that the location chosen by Kroger is not a good one for the city and its residents. Reeves suggested that a better location would be across Ga. Highway 316, where that part of town is under-served with respect to retail development.

Most of the standing-room-only crowd agreed with Reeves. According to David Szweda, one of the leaders of the opposition group, "We're not against Kroger coming to Dacula. We're against that location and the plan."

The plan for Dacula Market includes 15 retail/restaurant spaces in addition to the mega-market. Szweda cited the already burgeoning traffic that travels Dacula Road and Fence Road at their intersection.

"There are four schools along that section of road, and Kroger won't do a traffic study."

J.R. Connolly, president of J.R. Connolly Development, said his company has built many Kroger centers in Georgia, four of them in Gwinnett.

"The Georgia DOT does not require a traffic study for this development at this location," Connolly said, adding that Kroger will be responsible for installing a traffic light at the busy intersection to improve safety and traffic flow.

Another concern of the opposition group is the fact that there are already 27 empty retail spaces nearby. "It looks like blight to me, like a depression," Reeves said.

Connolly said the new development will cost Kroger about $25 million and will bring 300 to 400 jobs to Dacula. The development will pour between $250,000 and $400,000 into the city via property taxes, and about $2.5 million by way of sales tax.

"This is by far the best location in Dacula for this Kroger," Connolly said.

The rezoning carries with it 17 conditions which address everything from parking lot lighting to sign size to architectural guidelines.

Councilmam Tim Montgomery summed up his thoughts before casting his vote of approval.

"I have some problems with this project. It's not what I envisioned three years ago when we talked about a Town Center. But I have to look at this from the standpoint of what's best for the community."