Gwinnett delays final vote on mysterious ‘Project Rocket’

UPDATE: The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners delayed Tuesday its vote on the proposed "Project Rocket" distribution center.

Commissioner Tommy Hunter — who represents the area where the 2.5-million-square-foot facility is proposed — said he had concerns about voting on the project before getting a clearer picture of how things will shake out in DeKalb County. The entire proposed building would go up on 78 acres along West Park Place Boulevard in Gwinnett, but developers are hoping to include an additional entrance from the DeKalb County side of nearby Bermuda Road.

Hunter said he wanted to at least see how DeKalb’s planning commission handles the necessary rezoning for that third entrance. The topic is expected to be addressed at that group’s meeting early next month, an attorney for the project said.

Gwinnett’s commission vote was rescheduled for Sept. 18.

The property’s current zoning already allows for a distribution facility, but existing guidelines restricted the potential height to 45 feet. The special use permit on the table in Gwinnett would allow for the project to be built up to 80 feet tall.

ORIGINAL STORY, PUBLISHED AUG. 28, 2018: The massive and mysterious distribution center proposed for the Stone Mountain area is scheduled to be considered Tuesday night by the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, whose vote would be the final governmental hurdle for the project.

The code-named "Project Rocket" — whose would-be tenant has not been revealed — would involve 2.5 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space on a wooded lot off West Park Place Boulevard. It could create 1,000 jobs or more, officials have said.

The property’s current zoning allows for the use requested, but restricts any future facility’s height to 45 feet. The special use permit that the county commission is scheduled to vote on at 7 p.m. Tuesday would allow a building up to 80 feet tall.

Engineering firm Eberly & Associates filed the request for the project that, according to documents, would include 65 loading docks, 200 truck parking spaces and more than 1,800 employee parking spaces.

Officials and those involved with the project have remained mum on the tenant for the proposed project. Speculation has focused on e-commerce giant Amazon, which has purportedly been searching for a site to build a new Atlanta-area fulfillment center.

Such facilities are where workers pack and ship customer orders.

Atlanta is also among 20 cities named earlier this year to the "short list" for Amazon's much-sought-after second headquarters, though a new fulfillment center likely wouldn't provide indication one way or another regarding that competition.

More than a dozen people who live near the proposed site attended a planning commission meeting earlier this month to speak out against the project. Their chief concerns were traffic and the possibility of 24/7 operations.

In terms of traffic,  the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Georgia Road and Tollway Authority have given Project Rocket a thumbs up — as long as about $15 million of proposed “transportation improvements” are completed.

Those improvements would be completed at intersections involving West Park Place Boulevard, U.S. 78, Bermuda Road, Rockbridge Road and North Deshong Road, among others.