Commissioners, developer square off on property
by Joshua Sharpe
September 05, 2013 12:33 AM | 2173 views | 2 2 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Cherokee County Commissioners on Tuesday night continued the decades-long discussion on the Etowah River Tract community, a mixed-use development on the Etowah River near Ball Ground, which once built could have a population rivaling that of the cities of Ball Ground, Nelson and Waleska combined.

The latest set of plans for the almost 1,400-acre development near the intersection of Georgia Highways 372 and 369 is planned to be released Friday for resident review before the next public hearing scheduled on the sprawling community during the commission meeting Sept. 17.

But Tuesday night, commissioners said they still have issues with the plans presented by developer Barker Street for the community, which was originally approved by Cherokee County in 1990 under a now-outdated zoning classification.

During the meeting Tuesday night, commissioners were particularly critical of Barker Street owner Patrick Clark’s assertions of what changes the Board of Commissioners had previously approved for the 1,800-home development.

Clark contends that in the Dec. 19, 2006, commission meeting, the board approved a re-working of the numbers of each type of home which could be built in the development. Within the 1,800 homes, Clark said commissioners approved changing the number of homes which could be classified as “high-density” units from 350, as previously approved, to 710.

But Commissioner Harry Johnston, the only sitting commissioner who was in office in December 2006, said that never happened.

“That was your interpretation,” Johnston told Clark during the meeting Tuesday night. “And I’ll tell you that none of the five commissioners had that interpretation. Certainly, I didn’t. We may end up in court and the other four will have to testify as well.”

Johnston, who represents District 1 where the development will be built, said Wednesday that he and the other commissioners didn’t realize Clark was trying to increase the number of high-density homes during the meeting in 2006.

Instead, Johnston said the board thought Clark was only seeking approval of the “layout” of the development, not increasing the number of high-density units.

Even if the board had known what the developer was asking for, Johnston said it would have been difficult to grant approval, because the board had not been given a list of the numbers of each classification of home being requested. Instead of a list, Johnston said commissioners were given a map of the development with colored dots to represent each home.

Johnston said for the commissioners to have known just how many of the high-density units Clark wanted, they would have had to individually count each dot on the map, by hand.

And that task would’ve taken time the Board of Commissioners didn’t have on Dec. 19, 2006, Johnston said.

Johnston said the meeting that night was “the busiest ever in my 13-year history on that board.”

In addition to the proposal for the Etowah River Tract during the meeting, commissioners also discussed the eventually withdrawn request for the 4,000-acre development known as A Village in the Forest, which brought droves of concerned Cherokee residents to the meeting in protest.

It was also former Commission Chairman Michael Byrd’s last meeting with the board.

It went on for hours, Johnston said.

Clark, however, said Wednesday that how busy the December 2006 meeting was is irrelevant.

“It was a 4-0 decision,” he said, adding that Johnston was one of the four commissioners to vote for the proposal.

Despite the differences of opinions, Clark said he wants to the work with the county toward a plan which all can be happy with. He added other concessions in the plans have already been made to help keep the impact of the development low and to be “very good for the environment, very good for the river.”

The 710 high-density units, however, will stay in the plans, he said.

“It’s what was approved on the 2006 plan,” he said.

Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens also said Tuesday night that each party should work for a middle ground.

“We obviously have differences,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is narrow those differences.”

Johnston said Wednesday that he suspected the 710 high-density units would still be in the plans when released to the public Friday, although he isn’t happy about it.

“My position is the density of the development is far greater than everything in that area,” he said. “Now, it’s approved at 1,800 homes. It’s approved, and I can’t do anything about that. What I am trying to do is to keep the project from being even further out character with the surrounding area.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Ben K.
September 05, 2013
It sounds like the land owner already made concessions in 2006 when they removed 1,000 homes from the approved plan in exchange for the 710 high density homes. Just because it's unpopular, the county can't go back on an agreement, which again was a concession to and earlier, even less popular agreement.
Michael M.
September 07, 2013
Ben K., I think you are reading this wrong, the other houses are still being built, they are just cramming twice as many houses in what the builder considers the getto side of his subdivision and telling the city and the residence they have to accept it because he is rich and he doesn't care about the poor people living in his cooke cutter houses, he will run down Canton if he can make an extra dollar. I hope he goes bankrupt on the project.
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