Shops, restaurants around Coolray Field likely years away

The Views at Coolray Field apartment complex opened in Gwinnett County in April. But the restaurants and stores that many expected to spring up nearby once a minor league baseball team relocated to Buford are nowhere to be seen.

It may be some time before they appear.

Last week, a Gwinnett County judge threw out the zoning around the stadium that would have allowed for the construction of shops, eateries and a hotel. A family who owns some of the land slated for construction filed a lawsuit arguing that commissioners rezoned their land without their knowledge.

For the time being, the project cannot move forward.

A spokesman for Gwinnett County would not say whether commissioners plan to appeal the ruling, which called the rezoning unconstitutional.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2008 rezoning that gave Brand Properties permission to build around the stadium, with specific rules about where a hotel, stores, apartments and green space should go.

When it got the county go-ahead, the company did not own all of the land.

Some of it belonged to Garland Roberts and his family. The company had been paying the Roberts to keep them from selling it to anyone else, said Doug Dillard, an attorney for the property owner. But the company ended up not buying the land when the recession hit.

When the Roberts later asked permission to build apartments on the piece they still owned, the county denied the request. That’s when the Roberts learned the land had been rezoned without their permission, Dillard said. Judge Randy Rich also found that signs that should have been placed on the Roberts’ property to inform neighbors about the rezoning were ever erected.

“It was a good victory,” Dillard said. “For the Roberts, it’s been a very trying time for them.”

No one from Brand Properties would return phone calls seeking comment. Lee Tucker, the attorney who represented Brand, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The ruling affects the entire area, where only The Views have so far been built. Local leaders see the completion of the project as a way to make the stadium more of a destination.

The Views, with 206 units, is 66 percent leased, community manager Amy Cohen said. Rents average $1,335 a unit. Residents play darts or shuffleboard in the Skybox and sit on computers in the Dugout. They can grab Cracker Jacks at the front door. Since the pool opened at the end of July, residents watch games from the water and barbecue outside.

“When there’s a game going, it really is exciting, it’s fun,” Cohen said. “When it’s warm and they’re playing, oh my God, it’s packed.”

Some hoped the apartments, stores and restaurants would all be built at the same time.

“We want to make sure what’s built there is going to be successful,” said Chuck Warbington, who heads the county’s planning commission. “I think we’re looking at another couple years.”

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