Due to the economic plunge in recent years, the development surrounding Gwinnett Stadium in Lawrenceville came to a halt. Next week, planning commissioners will hear proposals to alter the mixed-use development.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Years after nearby neighborhoods bought into Gwinnett's field of dreams, residents are banding together to fight a change to the development around the county baseball stadium.
Next week, planning commissioners will hear two proposals to alter a mixed-use proposal stalled by the economy.
While apartments have always been part of the mix, a recent building permit application and proposal to add more units have people from neighboring homes worried they won't get the quality development promised when the stadium was built.
"We've been pleasantly surprised at how the Gwinnett Braves stadium has turned out. They are great neighbors," resident Cindy Schwarzer said at a community meeting Wednesday. "What goes around it needs to be similarly nice."
Paula Hastings, a local activist who was on the Planning Commission when the original mixed-use proposal was approved, said she is afraid the 50 acres surrounding the stadium on Ga. Highway 20 between Old Peachtree and Rock Springs roads could become "apartment city."
Mitch Peevy, who represents one of the property owners, said his client was left with a hardship when developer Brand Morgan did not renew a contract to buy his property.
Originally, regional and local planning leaders agreed to a plan of restaurants, offices, shops, townhouses and lofts on a total of 50 acres. But now a 19-acre property is left without direct access to the stadium. There, Peevy said, the best option is for some commercial space and more than 200 apartments.
At the same time, Morgan, who sold land to the county for the stadium, is seeking to increase the building height allowed on his remaining 30 acres to four stories. The request for a change in conditions, Hastings said, may have been a gift that allows officials to tighten restrictions, since Morgan has applied for a building permit for 200 apartment units on the other side of the property.
Messages left for Morgan's attorney were not returned.
With another complex already in existence behind the stadium, community members said they were worried the plethora of apartments could bring down housing values in the once affluent "Golden Triangle" even more.
"I was totally sold on this," Sheryl Bean said of the original mixed-use proposal, which conjured up images of Suwanee Town Center and Buford Village. "Our stadium, at the very beginning, I wasn't happy about it. ... But it has not been a bad thing. The better draw we can have, the better off our community will be."
Hastings is organizing an email campaign, and she is recruiting community members to show up at a Planning Commission hearing Wednesday and Board of Commissioners session March 27.
She is worried that she and her colleagues failed to protect her neighbors when the original zoning was approved, and she wants the developers held to the standards they presented when they pitched the complex to the community.
"(The stadium) is a crown jewel of our county. It's one of the biggest assets we have," she said. "Let's make (the development) hold to the standard (that) it was sold to us."