Apartments, townhomes no-go for unincorporated Loganville

Plans for a large-scale apartment and townhome development in southeastern Gwinnett County were withdrawn in the face of organized opposition from residents.

A red sea of disgruntled residents decked out in red clothing and masks flooded the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, prepared to speak against the large residential development proposed for the outskirts of Loganville near Grayson.

Marietta-based Retail Planning Corporation wanted to build 276 apartment units, 87 townhomes and 36 single-family homes on about 42 acres of land at the corner of Loganville Highway (Ga. 20) and Hoke O’Kelly Mill Road.

The developer withdrew the two rezoning applications scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, giving residents the outcome they desired without the need for a public hearing.

Representatives for the Retail Planning Corporation and the property owner’s broker did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication. No reason for the withdrawal of the plan was given at the meeting.

The Gwinnett County Planning Commission and its staff had recommended earlier this year the rezoning be denied. The withdrawal means the residents can now breathe easy after months of organizing resistance.

“I’m pleased because I feel like it was the right call, not because I feel like we got our way,” said Bill Dale, the unofficial leader of the loose coalition of homeowners association presidents and other residents. “We have to remain vigilant because this could come back up next month or the month after.”

Dale, who serves as the HOA president for Willowind Park across from the proposed development, and other residents worried the new homes would have increased traffic, overcrowded schools and set off a domino effect for unprecedented growth. All of this could alter the “suburban bordering on rural” feel of the area, Dale said, which drew him and his family to their current home.

Shane Lanham, an attorney for the developer, argued at a February meeting that the apartments and townhomes would fit the criteria outlined for future development in the area under the county’s 2040 Unified Plan.

Shannon Rowland, who lives near the site and collected 1,900 signatures for a petition against the development, disagreed with the developer’s justification.

Another section of the unified plan says development should be “responsible and appropriate relative to the existing character of the area,” which Rowland believes would change with the addition of apartments and townhomes. The county’s Planning Commission and staff recommended denial for the same reason.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the Board of Commissioners unanimously denied a similar rezoning request that would have allowed Lawrenceville-based CKK Development Services to build 91 townhomes at the corner of Loganville Highway and Bay Creek Road beside a horse farm.

Only a short drive from the Hoke O’Kelly Mill Road development, Dale and fellow residents also spoke against the second townhome plan, citing similar worries that it could ruin the area’s rural character.

Duncan Corley, a representative for the developer, said he tried to reach residents to hear their concerns but was unable to get in contact with them. District 3 Commissioner Jasper Watkins III questioned Corley’s efforts, saying he had received 50 to 60 emails from residents on the matter over the past few weeks.

Corley offered a compromise to reduce the scope of the plan, build a fence around the property and install a buffer between it and a neighbor’s horse farm, but Watkins made a motion to deny the rezoning request entirely.

After the vote, Dale’s neighbors sporadically came up to thank him for spearheading the group’s efforts. “I feel a bit like an accidental soldier,” Dale said.