Neighbors decry proposal for 'The Range'

Commissioners could decide the fate of “The Range” this week.

Protected for decades as part of the campus of Scientific Atlanta, now Cisco, the more than 130 acre tract is one of the largest undeveloped areas in the Lawrenceville area.

But a project to build hundreds of homes has neighbors calling for a permanent preservation of the land, possibly as a park.

At a 7 p.m. public hearing Tuesday, commissioners are scheduled to hear a proposal from Rocklyn Homes to build up to 334 homes.

“We want to rebuild this neighborhood,” Chris Horton told planning commissioners in August, saying that property values in the Sweetwater Circle/Pleasant Hill Road area have plummeted while crime rates have gone up. “It’s just been on a downward spiral and I do not think this development will fix it.”

Planning commissioners recommended approval of the proposal, while lowering the density of the project from the original 399 proposed, as the land is currently proposed for industrial, which could bring more intense uses, from a veterinary clinic to a furniture plant.

“You’d have tractor-trailers in your backyard with what it is today,” Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Warbington warned.

Neighbors have pleaded with county officials to buy The Range to develop a park, especially since a corner of the land is along a proposed county greenway. But planning commissioners, who are volunteers, said they had to make a decision based on the zoning, at a time when fewer dollars are available for land purchases.

Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash declined to talk about the proposal, both in terms of the upcoming zoning hearing and the possibility of a park, as land aquisition discussions are not subject to open meetings laws.

“We are trying to be a good neighbor,” said Mitch Peevy, who is representing Rocklyn Homes in the case, pointing out that the acreage is surrounded by similar homes. “We have tried to do what’s right.”

But neighbors are planning to continue the fight.

Marlin Knapp, one of the local “Gwinnett Range Rovers” who lives in the area, said the planning commission’s vote brings even more questions to a proposal that comes from David Jenkins, the owner of Rocklyn Homes who has been granted immunity in a bribery case against former Commissioner Kevin Kenerly.

“The addition of another high density development inside our Cruse/Club Corridor will only bring more traffic congestion, no matter what some ingress/egress patterns are approved or denied,” Knapp said. “Furthermore, why would someone care about the dimensions of a swimming pool in this proposed development if they weren’t already promised a home before ground is even broken?”