Hickory Flat project spurs apprehension; Residents express misgivings, others tout growth opportunity
by Michelle Babcock
March 02, 2014 04:00 AM | 5068 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HICKORY FLAT — For the second time in two weeks, residents packed the community room of the Hickory Flat Fire Station to express their concern about proposed developments along Batesville Road.

About 100 people attended a public participation meeting Thursday night for an Alpharetta-based developer’s plans to build 115 homes on 67 acres off Highway 140 and Batesville Road in the Hickory Flat Community.

The Cherokee County Planning Commission is set to hear the developer’s rezoning request Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Cherokee County Administrative Offices at the Bluffs in Canton.

Many residents at Thursday’s public participation meeting were against the proposed development because of concerns about traffic, already overcrowded schools and high density zoning requests they said do not fit with “the rural character” of the area.

Richard Cowart and his wife, Kari, live off Lower Birmingham Road and attended the public participation meeting to express their concerns. Cowart said the high density zoning the developer requested is the root of the community’s disapproval of the neighborhood plans.

“It’s all about density,” he said. “It’s a degradation of our quality of life.”

The meeting for the proposed development by Chatham Neighborhoods LLC came on the heels of a Feb. 18 meeting regarding another developer’s plans to build 229 homes on 176 acres along Batesville and Lower Birmingham roads. The land where the two proposed neighborhood plans sit are beside one another off Batesville Road.

However, not everyone at the meeting opposed the developer’s plans.

Members of the Hickory Flat United Methodist Church, who are owners of part of the land that Chatham Neighborhoods wants to develop, and some local business owners, are in favor of the development.

Mary Kay Buquoi owns The Goddard School nearby, and supports the developer’s neighborhood plans. However, Buquoi said she had concerns about traffic and schools.

“I do think there’s some genuine concern,” she said. “But I think it’s a positive thing for a lot of businesses.”

Buquoi said while she is worried about the impact more single-family homes could have on traffic in the area, it would also bring more customers to local businesses.

The Chatham Neighborhoods proposal would include 27.5 acres of green space in the 67.5 acre development, and representatives at the meeting said 40 percent of the land would always be open space.

The proposed neighborhood would include amenities such as tennis courts, a pool and a cabana, and home prices would range from about $325,000 to $425,000, representatives said.

But Cowart said in a community where roads and schools are already congested, adding 115 more homes would put much more strain on the area’s infrastructure.

Although the developer could make a contribution to the school system to help offset the impact of the additional homes, Cowart said it wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost for facilities to house new students in an already overcrowded zone.

He said the burden will fall on taxpayers to “subsidize the development” and fund new facilities for schools and other infrastructure.

The land is zoned for Office and Institutional, R-40 residential, which allows one home per acre, and Agricultural, and Chatham Neighborhoods want to rezone the land for an R-15 conservation neighborhood.

An R-15 zoning in a conservation neighborhood would allow the developer to build about three houses per acre, and Cowart said the zoning is “much too high density.”

“It’s not consistent with the county’s land use plan,” he added.

Cowart said he and other residents weren’t opposed to development in the area, they just wanted to see lower density neighborhood proposals that would fit with the rural feel of the area.

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