What Ashton Woods would like to build on the current site of two golf courses next to the Chattahoochee River in Duluth is a sprawling community with 971 residential units and parks.
Whether that happens in face of community pushback over the proposed density remains to be seen.
Ashton Woods is proposing to build a community called Encore on about 145 acres at the current site of The Hooch Golf Club and the neighboring Peachtree Golf Center. It would include apartments, single-family homes and townhouses, as well as green spaces, right next to Rogers Bridge Park and the Chattahoochee River.
But residents in the area say that’s way too much housing to add to their community.
“I’m not against growth, I understand it, but the infrastructure has to accommodate the growth,” Windsor Court Homeowners Association President Michael Tisma said after a community meeting at Duluth City Hall to discuss the project Thursday. “Enough planning has not been done to accommodate this kind of (development).”
Duluth’s Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to hear the proposal when it meets next month — although no meeting date has been set yet — and the City Council is tentatively set to take it up in August.
On paper, Encore is described by Ashton Woods as having “the potential to be transformative for the city of Duluth.”
“The development provides a rare opportunity to create an architecturally harmonious community set among ample open/green spaces, pocket parks and trails with eventual connections to (the) Chattahoochee River corridor,” Ashton Woods officials wrote in a conceptual plan for the development.
It’s had to undergo a development of regional impact review by the Atlanta Regional Commission because of its size. Although that review has been completed, it still must undergo a Metropolitan River Protection Act review.
It includes six residential communities: The Encore Apartments; Encore Row (townhouses); Riverview at Encore (single-family homes); Village at Encore (bungalow-style homes); River Estates at Encore (estate homes); and Encore Estates (single-family homes).
A tennis center, several large and small parks, a club house and two entrances from Peachtree Industrial Boulevard are also listed in the conceptual plans for Encore.
“We would love to call Duluth home; we’d love to build here,” Ashton Woods division president of land Mike Rusher told residents at Thursday’s community meeting.
With 450 proposed units, the apartments make up nearly half of the housing units that would be located in Encore.
But residents who live near the proposed site want the density reduced, and that could mean the plans for the apartment units may have to go.
“Right now you’re putting a population, or a potential population, larger than the population of the city of Berkeley Lake on 140 acres right off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and that scares everybody,” Olde Towne Village Homeowners Association President Jim Watkins told Rusher at the community meeting.
“That’s something that y’all are going to have to deal with and of course if you can’t do it, you can’t do it.”
City staff are currently recommending denial of the proposal based on the current layout proposal.
“It’s not supported in its current design,” Duluth Planning and Development Bill Aiken said. “We feel as though it is too dense. There’s too much for the general area.”
Cutting back on the density may mean cutting the apartments out of the project. Rusher said he is flexible on trying to find a way to come up with a proposal that addresses as many of the residents concerns as possible.
It will take some searching to find a way to address density concerns, though.
“I don’t know what the answer to that is yet,” he said. “We started with a plan we hoped would get support and so I don’t know what that answer is.”
But he didn’t commit that the development could definitely go forward without apartments.
“If that goes away, that’s a part of our underwriting now that has to be underwritten someplace else and in another way,” Rusher told residents at the community meeting. “It’s half the project so if it were the part to go away ... so maybe we go away. Maybe there is no solving it.”