Residents still oppose Buice/Autry Mill zoning

Developer says 10-acre tract can’t be done as staff says

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The owner of a triangular 10-acre tract that is bordered by Buice Road and Autry Mill Road says the property cannot be profitably developed as 1-acre lots with a columned fence around it and curb and gutters required.

But the Planning Commission unanimously agreed with staff recommendations at the Nov. 5 commission meeting that it should be developed at no more than one house per acre.

The site’s original request was for 22 lots, but after a deferral, the plan was reworked to 15 lots. Nathan “Pete” Hendricks III, attorney for developer Curtis Hicks, said that the 15 lots (1.48 units per acre) would be an appropriate transition.

On the north side of Buice Road across from the property is Cameron Crest Farms, which has multi-acre lots of up to 5 acres. On the east side is the Papillion community, which are 1-acre lots. On the south side on Autry Mill Road across from the property is Oxford Mill with three lots to the acre.

Hicks proposed a white “horse fence” around the property and proposed to leave an undisturbed buffer on Buice Road facing the Cameron Crest Farms community.

One resident, Edward Jones, spoke in favor of the plan. He said the property today is in disrepair. Two vacant houses have been torn down, but there have been no improvements on the site.

“I opposed all of the plans for the property until now. Fifteen homes fits in with the area and will be connected as a neighborhood,” Jones said. “If it’s denied, we’ll have no say about what is built on [1-acre] lots.”

However, many residents were there to oppose the plan. Janet Turner of Papillion Trace said that 10 homes on that property were “fair and reasonable.”

“I believe there is a market for those homes,” she said.

Mark Browning, the Cameron Crest Farms community liaison, noted the plan would be a 50 percent increase in density on what is advised by the city Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

“It is not inevitable for increased density in the area unless precedents are made,” Browning said.

Zane Edge, president of Lakeview Estates, said his community also opposed the higher density.

David Kornbluh of the Johns Creek Community Association Zoning Committee said the consistent message his group heard from area residents supported a 1-acre per lot maximum.

In rebuttal, Hicks said a quality development on the property is not feasible as zoned with the staff recommendations.

“You can’t afford to do the internal and external conditions as proposed by staff. It just is not feasible,” he said. “I won’t be the developer at anything less than 15 lots.”

In addition to curb and gutter on both roads, the staff has recommended 10-foot-wide concrete trail along Buice Road as part of the city’s approved Trail Map. A 5-foot internal concrete sidewalk would be required as well. Finally, staff recommends an ornamental fence on the frontage of both Buice and Autry Mill roads with 6-foot brick or stacked stone columns 35 feet apart.

With the conditions imposed at 10 lots, Hicks said even if Jim Cowart (the property owner) gave him the land, he could not build it.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the project, saying it is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan. It will come before the City Council at its Nov. 19 meeting for a decision.

The commissioners voted 4-3 to recommend that if the plan is denied to allow the property remain zoned AG-1 instead of R-4A, one lot per acre.

After the meeting, Hicks said the property can’t be developed for 10 lots with curb and gutter and fencing on both roads.

“It is those roads that are killing it. The fence alone that they want is $400,000. You have more than $1 million in infrastructure. At 15 lots, the deal squeaks by at $600,000 per house,” Hicks said.

Cowart said the alternative is to develop single lots on the property.

“I don’t know why people would prefer 10 individual lots with no homeowner association and no covenants. That is not the best thing for the property,” Cowart said.