JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council heard two zoning cases Oct. 21 — a retail proposal on McGinnis Ferry was approved unanimously, while a Jones Bridge residential case was deferred.
The first case was a request to build a 32,000 square foot restaurant and retail center at 6650 McGinnis Ferry Road. The undeveloped lot shares the corner of McGinnis and Johns Creek Parkway with Delta Community Credit Unit and is near small office buildings, hotels and a Panera Bread.
In 2014, the property was rezoned to allow for development of a daycare facility that never came to be. Earlier this year, the developers began the zoning process for a shopping center but withdrew due to soil issues.
The new site plan includes two buildings with outdoor patios, 146 parking spaces and a stormwater retention pond on the west side of the property. The developers propose making that side of the property greenspace, maintaining the existing stream and trail and connecting it to the shopping center with a small bridge.
The proposal is not in line with the future land use map, which imagines office space on the subject property. Still, city planning staff recommended approval of the development, noting it would have minimal traffic impact and complement nearby businesses.
In line with the staff and Planning Commission recommendation, the council unanimously approved the rezoning with certain conditions, baring certain uses like drive-throughs and car repair shops.
The second zoning case was not as clear a picture. The proposal was to develop eight single-family homes on a 3.7 acre lot on Jones Bridge Road across from West Morton Road.
The site is currently zoned agricultural but includes three single-family homes built around the 1940s. The lot is adjacent to the Orchards at Johns Creek condos and Long Indian Creek subdivision.
The Public Works department has said the development would require several changes to the existing intersection, including changing the right-only lane on West Morton to allow drivers to turn onto Jones Bridge or into the subdivision.
City staff recommended requiring the developer pay for those improvements as a condition of the rezoning, as well as dedicating right-of-way for the widening of Jones Bridge Road.
The Planning Commission recommended denial of the project in a 4-1 vote earlier. During the public hearing, five resident spoke against the rezoning. The applicant, Terrance Slade with TDS Holdings, and two of the property-owners spoke in favor of the project.
As Slade answered questions posed by the City Council, such as whether trees along the rear of the property would be preserved and how he would address the slope, he said those answers would be given before he was granted a land disturbance permit.
That did not go over well with the council.
“We heard the phrase multiple times ‘We’ll resolve that during the LDP phase’ and that hasn’t served the city well in the past,” Councilman Steve Broadbent said.
Slade asked the council to consider the proposal on the merits of the zoning type and density, which were in line with the future land use map and surrounding property.
“These concerns and more will be addressed per the city’s guidelines during our LDP phase,” Slade said. “Because there were many concerns, many of the [Planning] Commissioners said they were uncomfortable moving forward. I don’t believe that was fair for the sellers, as they want to sell here, and I feel like we need to follow the guidelines for the zoning and not jump too far ahead.”
The City Council indicated approval of the zoning request would be conditioned on the developer preserving the trees in the rear of the lot and increasing the minimum lot size.
They speculated that it would be difficult for the developer to absorb the costs of the intersection improvements and other requirements, especially when there would be at most eight homes to sell.
“I suspect you don’t really know what those dollars and cents really look like,” Mayor Mike Bodker said. “I’m going to want to know that you’re prepared for that, and we’re not zoning something just to find out later that you don’t have the ability to move forward with the deal, in which case the public and everyone else feels like they were kind of jerked around.”
Bodker said he does not like to defer zoning cases, because it asks the public to turn out at another meeting, but with this petition there were too many unknowns.
Councilwoman Stephanie Endres pointed out that a denial, simply because of fear of the unknown, would be unfair to the current property owners who are trying to sell their homes. If the project were denied, the properties could not request another rezoning for at least a year.
“I think that everyone up here is hoping that this is a successful project,” Councilman John Bradberry said. “It’s obvious that this will be developed in some form or fashion. It’s just a matter of the details. A deferral is obviously better than a denial.”
Ultimately the council deferred their decision to the first meeting of February 2020. The council asked the applicant to consider buffers between properties, tree preservation, how to address the slope of property, possible adjustments to the minimum lot sizes and the budget of the project.