Gwinnett County planning commissioners gave their blessing to a proposed special permit that would let a distribution center — which has been rumored to be tied to Amazon — be built near Stone Mountain on Tuesday.
Eberly and Associates had requested a special use permit to would let the proposed 80-foot building be built in an area on West Park Place Boulevard where the highest permissible building height is 45-feet. The proposal was approved 7-1 with Planning Commissioner Larry Still voting against it.
The project has been shrouded in mystery with officials who are excited about the project declining to say what business wants to build the four-story, 2.56 million-square-foot facility. A site plan submitted to the county earlier this year referred to the project simply as “Project Rocket.”
“This substantial capital intensive project in the southern part of Gwinnett County and in the Evermore CID is an absolute game changer for new investment in that area,” Planning Commission Chairman Chuck Warbington said. “The economic impact from this project will be felt regionally and I fully support this request for a special use permit.”
The Planning Commission does not have the final say on the matter though. The issue will now go to the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, which has the final say on all zoning and special use permit matters.
The project property also crosses the county line into DeKalb County, which means that county also has some zoning authority over the piece of the property that is on that side of the county line. The entire distribution center is located on the Gwinnett side of the county line.
The distribution center, if approved by county leaders, would be built on 78.11 acres on the Gwinnett-DeKalb county line, across West Park Place Boulevard from the Mountain East Business Center. The address is on the 2100 to 2200 blocks of West Park Place Boulevard.
There have been rumors that the facility will be an Amazon Fulfillment Center, although no one has confirmed that. Atlanta is one of the 20 "short list" cities for Amazon’s HQ2, but that would be something different from a fulfillment center.
Development of Regional Impact paperwork filed with the state and the Atlanta Regional Commission earlier this year show the facility is expected to represent a $200 million capital investment that would generate about $1.5 million annually in local tax revenues.
The county’s planning staff have recommended approval of the distribution center, albeit with conditions. The staff report shows the center will have 1,806 parking spaces for cars, 200 parking spaces for trucks, 65 loading dock doors, two entrances on West Park Place Boulevard and one on Bermuda Road.
An attorney representing Eberly and Associates said about five or six trucks will be coming and going from the facility each hour, which means about 120 to 144 trucks would be coming and going from the facility. In addition to that, there will also be employees coming and going in their cars.
That has residents in the area concerned about how traffic will be impacted. Some residents of adjacent neighborhoods, on Bermuda Road, expressed fears that traffic will be backed up to the point where they will be “trapped” in their subdivisions.
More than a dozen people who live on the Gwinnett and DeKalb sides of the county line near the property brought their concerns to the Planning Commission Tuesday.
“Where this particular project is being proposed, it couldn’t be in a worse spot,” Dean Smith said.
Some residents implored the Planning Commission to postpone a decision on the project.
Warbington told residents that there is an issue with their requests to block the center from having any access to Bermuda Road: The access that Eberly and Associates want to have on Bermuda Road is on the DeKalb side of the road. That puts it outside of the control of Gwinnett County officials.
“We can’t address access on Bermuda Road because there is no access to Bermuda Road proposed in Gwinnett County,” Warbington told one resident.
Among the conditions recommended by staff are a prohibition on billboards or oversized signs and a requirement for a sound wall to be built between the loading docks and nearby residential communities.
“The development preserves all existing streams and wetlands on site, maintains full zoning buffers and includes noise abatement sound walls at the loading docks,” Warbington said.
Documents provided to the county show the center is expected to be finished around June 2020.