Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Development Authority of Cherokee County’s request to rezone land in the southwestern part of the county for an expansion of the Cherokee 75 Corporate Park.
The board also gave its OK to an Alpharetta-based developer’s plans to build a sizable residential community in the Hickory Flat community. Chairman Buzz Ahrens and Commissioner Harry Johnston, though, had concerns about the proposal and voted no.
The development authority’s request was to rezone 35.28 acres on Old Alabama Road near Highway 92 to light industrial in an effort to capitalize on increased interest in the southwestern Cherokee County area.
Commissioners approved, with the condition landscaping buffers would be installed to lessen the impact on residents.
Commissioner Jason Nelms, who represents the area the development is in, said southwestern Cherokee County is headed for growth in general.
“We’ve got an opportunity down there, and people want to be a part of that,” he said. “As we’ve all talked about economic opportunities and momentum, now is the time.”
Commissioner Brian Poole agreed.
“It’s headed for growth down there right now,” Poole said in the meeting. “I think it’s a good opportunity for Cherokee County.”
Still, commissioners said they wanted the county-sponsored authority to take measures, including the buffers, to keep the residents nearby as happy as possible.
Marshall Day, chairman of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, told the board the authority — which is COED’s governing body — also wanted to take resident worries into account, while capitalizing on a surge of interest in southwestern Cherokee.
“Our prospect activity has more than doubled in 2013 over 2009 — and 75 percent of those prospects were interested only in southwest Cherokee,” Day explained to the board. “As a matter of fact, currently, we’re in the final stages of discussion with two prospects for our park.”
The existing 100-plus acre park in southwest Cherokee opened in 2013 and is home to Inalfa Roof Systems, which expects to employ 400 people in the next few years.
Given the interest, Day said the authority needed new corporate park acreage ready for more companies eyeing the area.
Though the authority offered to maintain buffers in between the development and the homes, some neighbors seemed to still have concerns.
Nearby resident Katie Mcwaters told the commission she was “all for economic growth,” but the area was simply wrong for the plans. She aired concerns about property values, water runoff and the general quality of life for those who live near the proposed development.
“People live here for the serenity of the area, the lack of industry, for the quiet area, the relatively safe area to raise their children,” she told the board.
Mcwaters added she was concerned about Old Alabama Road’s ability to handle the truck traffic possibly resulting from industrial operations.
The resident also reminded commissioners the Cherokee Planning Commission voted against the proposal because it wasn’t in compliance with the county’s land use plan.
Hickory Flat development
With the exception of Ahrens and Johnston, commissioners seemed to feel Chatham Neighborhoods’ agreement to reduce the number of homes in its development off Highway 140 and Batesville Road was enough to make the plans palatable.
Commissioner Ray Gunnin, who represents the area, said the developer had proposed reducing the number of houses planned for the development to about 80, instead of the original 115. The company also said it wouldn’t develop parts of the original 67 acres requested to be rezoned that connect to Batesville Road, according to Gunnin, who has acted as the intermediary between residents and Chatham.
Gunnin said he did his best to consider the facts of the case and not his emotions.
Johnston said the company’s reduction to 80 homes wasn’t enough to get his vote. Johnston said he wanted to stagger the zoning classes in the property to keep the densest portions in areas where they would have the least impact.
Ahrens was worried Chatham planned only one entrance and exit for the large community.
“I have concerns about 80 homes all entering and exiting on Highway 140,” he said during the meeting. “Also, I have to take into consideration that we postponed this on April 1, and yet only yesterday we received notification that this is a proposal the county has to consider.”
Prior to the vote, Hickory Flat resident Betty Cropper told the board the plans were just too dense.
“We’re concerned the zoning of this particular property will adversely affect things down the road, and that more and more will get rezoned and there’ll be a higher density,” she said. “We moved here because we wanted the land. We feel like this would be starting a trend to get more and more close density that is not appropriate for this area.”
Cropper told the board she and her neighbors were OK with the land being developed, because they knew that at some point, it would be anyway.
“We also would like to see the land use plan followed,” she said.