The Gwinnett County Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously recommended approval of a zoning change that would allow a controversial housing development to move forward.
Developer David Jenkins’ company, Rocklyn Homes, wants to build 334 houses on a mostly undeveloped 131-acre tract of land in an already crowded portion of the county.
The planning commission delayed ruling on the proposed development last month to give time for the Jenkins’ representatives to talk with neighbors, who came out in force to opposed the development, saying that many new homes would overcrowd schools, roads and strain other infrastructure such as water and sewer systems.
Jenkins is a successful developer who was given immunity three years ago in exchange for his testimony about his partnership with former Gwinnett County commissioner Kevin Kenerly, who has been accused of accepting a $1 million bribe from Jenkins in exchange for his vote on a zoning issue. Kenerly has denied the accusation and has appealed the indictment to the Georgia Court of Appeals. A ruling on that appeal is expected later this year.
There was no public debate of the development at Tuesday’s hearing.
Planning Commissioner Earl Mitchell suggested a few conditions that the developer will have to follow, such as limiting the development to no more than 334 homes; building a swim-league eligible pool, along with a spray ground and playground area; building a 10-foot-wide buffer along the entire western side of the development; and not allowing any vehicular ingress or egress from Sweetwater Circle.
Without debate, the zoning change was approved. It will now head to the Sept. 24 Gwinnett County Commissioners meeting for a final vote.
At the public hearing last month, Mitch Peevy represented Rocklyn Homes and said the company agreed to reduce the number of homes in the development to 334 from 399, in an attempt to ease residents’ concerns.
“We have tried to do what’s right,” Peevy said. “We are trying to be good neighbors.”
More than 20 people showed up to oppose Jenkins’ request for a zoning change at that meeting. The property currently is zoned for light industrial, which allows for some 60 uses, including animal hospitals, cabinet shops, food processing plants, distribution centers, self service storage units, and laundry or dry cleaning plants.
Several residents said they would prefer those uses to a huge development of tightly-packed homes that would bring with them hundreds of additional cars on the congested roads and more students in overcrowded schools.
Rocklyn Homes bought the property contingent upon the rezoning from California-based Cisco Systems, which kept the land — known as “The Range” — largely undeveloped so it could test the range on its satellite dishes and other electronic devices.
“We recognize this case is highly emotional,” Mitchell said. “I see the problem as being the neighborhood doesn’t want the range developed. The range has become over many years a sensitive place in the community.”