Residential/retail project gets OK from commissioners; developer says planning still underway

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A preliminary artist's rendering shows how a planned 74-acre development on Cleveland Highway south of Varnell could look.

The Whitfield County Board of Commissioners gave the go-ahead Monday night to a proposed 74-acre planned community on Cleveland Highway across from North Whitfield Middle School.

The board voted 4-0 to approve a request by Greenwood Developers to rezone the site to planned unit development from general agriculture. Planned unit development allows for a mix of land uses within a single subdivision or development.

"I'm really excited," said Mitchell Hollis, one of the partners in Greenwood.

Hollis said that he doesn't expect Greenwood will break ground on the project until next spring.

"We've still got a lot of planning to do," he said. "A project this large requires a lot of thought and preparation."

The Dalton-Whitfield County Planning Commission recommended the rezoning at its meeting two weeks ago.

The site plan presented to the Planning Commission shows a tree-lined, split parkway going through the heart of the community, as well as a swimming pool and clubhouse. The development will have more than 300 housing units, consisting of a mixture of quadplex, single-story condominiums; multi-story townhouse condominiums; smaller cottage homes and larger estate homes, as well as loft apartments above retail units near Cleveland Highway.

Hollis told the planning commissioners that the homes will have porches facing the community streets but most will not have front-facing driveways. Instead, there will be alleys behind the homes and drivers will pull into rear-facing garages.

Jerome Hollis, another partner in Greenwood, described the project as "medium to high end construction." He said the exact pricing of the units hasn't been decided but they will probably range from $200,000 to $300,000. He said they are aiming at a "Mayberry" feel for the community, referencing the quaint, fictional town in the popular 1960s television show "The Andy Griffith Show."

Commissioners also said they were excited by the prospects for the project.

"The (Greater Dalton) Chamber of Commerce has told us that there is a real need for more housing in the county," said Commissioner Roger Crossen. "This will take a big step towards filling that need."

Commissioner Harold Brooker said he believes the project will have a beneficial impact on the county, especially the north end of the county.

"We are going to have to keep an eye on stormwater runoff and traffic," he said. "But I do think this will be good."

Commissioners also voted 4-0 to approve a resolution allowing the county engineer to approve on a case-by-case basis rights-of-way narrower that the required 50 feet inside planned unit developments if they provide utility easement strips to carry utilities such as water, sewer, natural gas and electricity.

County Engineer Kent Benson told commissioners that would keep utilities out of the county right-of-way and give developers more flexibility.

"This is something we have been considering for several months now," Benson said. "The timing with Greenwood Developers is coincidental, although we have obviously reviewed their plans and they are proposing a right-of-way narrower than 50 feet."

Benson said the city of Dalton allows narrow rights-of-way with utility easement strips in some of its zoning.

Chairman Lynn Laughter typically votes only in the event of a tie.

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