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Neighbors voice opposition to proposed development

LAWRENCEVILLE — A group of neighbors who oppose a proposed development of 130 acres in Lawrenceville said on Monday morning that the county shouldn’t allow a rezoning with a man who was connected to a bribery scandal.

Marlin Knapp, president of the Vintage Point Neighborhood Association, is leading the opposition by a group called “Gwinnett Neighborhoods in Peril” to the development of up to 334 homes near Pleasant Hill Road and Cruse Road. At a press conference outside the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center on Monday, Knapp said the area is also too densely populated, and the development would cause the area to be “really bombarded with extra traffic.”

“We’re already congested,” Knapp said. “Our quality of life could get even worse with extra traffic, over-burdened sewer lines, the water main lines. The fire trucks have a hard time getting past the intersection of Cruse Road and Pleasant Hill.”

Planning commissioners recommended approval of the proposal, and lowered the density of the project from the original 399 homes proposed. Any changes to the proposed plan would require the process to start over.

Mike Islam, a member of the opposition who lives off of Pleasant Hill Road, said the area’s infrastructure can’t handle even 100 more cars. At minimum, Cruse Road needs to add a turning lane, even if this development doesn’t pass, he said.

“This is called incompetence,” Islam said. “Whoever is planning this thing is wasting our tax dollars.”

The land, commonly called “The Range,” is owned by Cisco Systems, Inc.

One of Knapp’s issues with the development is regarding David Jenkins, the owner of Rocklyn Homes, the proposed developer, who has been granted immunity in a bribery case against former Commissioner Kevin Kenerly.

“I don’t think that we the people of Gwinnett owe Mr. Jenkins any favors,” Knapp said.

A message for Jenkins at the Rocklyn Homes corporate office was not returned.

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners are scheduled to hear a proposal from Rocklyn Homes at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The land is currently proposed for industrial, which could bring more intense uses.

“We’re trying to think of Plans B, and C and D, but tomorrow’s going to be the big day,” Knapp said. “If we can’t get this flatly denied, we can hope for a tabling. We know this land is going to be under attack for development and to add to the tax digest.”

Commissioner Jace Brooks said the rezoning request has caused him to lose some sleep but county staff in several departments including fire, water and transportation didn’t find any major concerns. Brooks said he understands the traffic concern, and the current zoning allows for significant tractor trailer traffic.

Asked about the involvement of Jenkins, Brooks said he’s never met the developer.

“Thankfully, we don’t make zoning decisions based on who we like and who we don’t like,” Brooks said. “That wouldn’t be good for anyone. That can’t come into play in this decision.”

Brooks also added that the Commissioners are not going into the meeting with the anticipation that the proposal would be tabled.

About 750 people have signed a petition in person or on the group’s website to support opposition of the development, Knapp said.

“We’re hoping that with further conversations with our commissioners, and even with Rocklyn Homes, that this could be tabled even further,” Knapp said. “Before this rezoning was public knowledge, there was a lot of talk about a park. There can still be that, because there’s a greenway that’s proposed, and it could connect to the northwest part of The Range.”

Another option would be to make Cruse Road a one-way road and Club Drive a one-way road the opposite direction to form what Knapp called the “world’s largest round-about.”

Islam also took issue with what he called a lawsuit threat from the Rocklyn Homes representatives on an application with the Gwinnett County Planning Commission if the zoning request isn’t approved.

“Why would you threat like this to the county officials now,” Islam said. “This is implying (a lawsuit) really. It’s not fair … what prevents the general public like us to come in and start threatening public officials here that if I don’t get it, I sue you? It’s not fair. It’s got to be a level field, it’s got to be equal for everybody.”