The Etowah River Tract community development site, which has 2.5 miles of frontage on the Etowah River, sits near the intersection of Georgia Highways 372 and 369 in between Ball Ground and the Free Home community.
Since first being approved by the county in 1990 under zoning classification “planned unit development,” a zoning designation no longer given by Cherokee, nearby residents have expressed concerns the development could cause adverse effects to the area such as light and noise pollution and traffic. PUD zoning allows for a mix of housing types and commercial uses on a development.
One resident nearby, Linda Flory, told the Board of Commissioners during a public hearing in November that the massive development “has no place in this rural community in Cherokee County.”
“This plan belongs in Atlanta,” Flory told the Board.
Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens, though, said Friday night that the owners of the potential development are “willing to make concessions” to the nearby neighbors and have previously lowered the number of homes from 2,800 to 1,800, reducing the density.
Ahrens said the discussion on the plans for the development now is to aid the developers in laying out guidelines for what exactly can be constructed on the site and, thus, how it should be marketed.
“They want to have the rules of road,” he said. “This is an effort to say, ‘What does fit? What makes sense?’”
Historically, residents have expressed concern that the density of the long-planned development — which with 1,800 homes on less than 1,400 acres, offers less than an acre on average for each home — and the breakdown of the types of housing to be constructed and what effects each type of housing would have on factors like traffic.
Ahrens said he isn’t concerned “about the configuration.”
“In my view, 1,800 (homes) is 1,800 (homes);” 1,800 (homes) is going to generate so much traffic, period,” the chairman said.
Commissioner Harry Johnston who represents Post 1 where the Etowah River Tract is located, expressed concern with the plans Friday night.
Johnston said throughout the history of this development, the plans have evolved and may have been “hastily” adopted by the Board of Commissioners.
“The original plan for the development called for a 150-acre high-density residential area, in addition to an undefined number of single family homes,” Johnston said. But the current proposed standards “allow roughly 700 high-density units on about 150 acres spread throughout the development.”
Johnston said there are differences of opinion on whether or not the county has agreed to that change.
Johnston said a site plan was “hastily” approved by the Board of Commissioners on Dec. 19, 2006, in an hours-and-hours-long marathon meeting with a loaded agenda.
During that meeting, droves of concerned Cherokee residents poured in to protest another request on a 4,000-acre development, A Village in the Forest, near Sutallee.
But six and a half years later, Johnston said he remembers the Board’s action on the Etowah River Tract differently than a representative for the owner of the property, who now “claims” the plan approved that night allows the roughly 700 homes on 150 acres spread throughout the development.
It was also former Commission Chairman Michael Byrd’s last meeting with the Board, Johnston said, and it was a “very busy” one.
“But all discussion about the Etowah plan was to the effect that it wasn’t a change of any substance, just a change in the way the allowed components would be arranged on the site,” Johnston said.