JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council approved Dec. 2 the 52-acre Warren Jolly mixed-use project at McGinnis Ferry Road and Bell Road, which sought 86,000 square feet of office/commercial space and 124 townhouses on McGinnis Ferry and 116 single-family homes on Bell Road.
However, the council would only approve 70 of the single-family homes in the zoning request, a reduction of 31 percent. This was done to answer the surrounding communities of Belmont, Blackstone and Tavistock’s objections to what they saw as higher density single-family homes on Bell Road than is allowed in their subdivisions.
This is true, but the Jolly project falls under a different zoning “area,” and thus is allowed the higher densities because it is part of a mixed-use project. The project had the blessing of the Johns Creek Zoning Department and the Planning Commission.
The property previously had a rezoning request denied in 2012. That generated a lawsuit by the property owners, which was also a mixed-use project and a downsizing from the original zoning that would allow 299,000 square feet of office/commercial and residential.
The lawsuit was put in abeyance by the city and the owners to allow this new plan brought forth by Jolly’s Providence Group of Georgia Development Co. Jolly said if the new zoning is not acceptable to the owners, then they have until Dec. 31 to lift the abeyance or lose the right to continue the original lawsuit.
Jolly said he could not say whether the families involved will be satisfied with the reduced density, which may affect the selling price Providence Group is willing to pay.
The zoning hearing was deferred at the Nov. 18 meeting by council, which asked that the developer and the homeowner associations on Bell Road find a workable compromise. That didn’t happen.
So Dec. 2, they were all in council chambers again to rehash the same arguments. The community leaders complained that the development with its 116 homes on Bell Road would crowd already crowded schools, choke traffic in the area during peak times and adversely affect the rural and pastoral nature of Bell Road proposed under the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Homeowner David Meskell said any way you slice it, 240 units create a density of 4.2 units an acre. Homes in the adjacent communities are all at 1 acre minimums.
“This is more dense than the project that was rejected in 2012,” he said. “I don’t see expensive homes on postage stamp lots as respecting the neighbors. The interpretation of the Comprehensive Plan should be to protect Shakerag.”
Jolly’s position is that the property, which is in the McGinnis development area, does comply with the plan, and that it is common practice to address lot density in terms of the entire 52 acres.
“This is a transition area from the high density use on McGinnis Ferry Road,” Jolly said.
Zoning Administrator Justin Kirouac said this was true, and that the project did meet zoning conditions.
Despite Jolly’s offer to reduce the density of the 26-acre section by 22.4 percent (25 homes), the council insisted on a 70-home reduction.
Now, it is a wait-and-see situation as to whether the property owners will accept the city’s zoning decision or go back to court. They have until Dec. 31 to decide.