The Douglasville Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to OK a zoning change to allow for a new development that would include 238 detached single-family homes at the corner of Timber Ridge Drive and Prestley Mill Road.
The Douglasville City Council still has to approve the rezoning for it to take effect since the planning commission can only make recommendations. The council held one public hearing on the zoning change Thursday evening and is expected to vote on the issue Monday after a second public hearing at 6 p.m.
The subdivision would be called Somerset at Timber Ridge and would be located on a tract of land that is next to Benton House and across the street from Brighten Academy.
The planning commission voted to recommend that the city council change the zoning of the 83.3 acre site from R-2, which limits a development to two houses per acre, to Planned Unit Development (PUD).
Neville Allison, managing partner with The Revive Land Group, told the planning commission and city council the development would average 2.83 homes per acre, which he said is less than other nearby developments.
Homes in the subdivision would all be single-family detached units, ranging in size from 1,800 square feet to over 3,000 square feet, according to Allison.
Allison said the houses are projected to start in pricing in the low $300,000 range for the 1,800 square foot homes and go up to more than $400,000 for the larger homes.
City council members Terry Miller and Nycole Miller told the developers Thursday they were skeptical the smaller homes would go for the $320,000 being estimated, when larger homes in the county have sold for less money.
Kenneth Wood, president of Planners & Engineers Collaborative, said new construction with modern amenities brings higher prices.
Mayor Rochelle Robinson pointed to Gateway Village off Highway 92 north of the city, where homes similar in size and price to those proposed for Somerset at Timber Ridge “are selling like hotcakes.”
Allison and Wood told the city council and planning commission that several changes had been made to the proposed development since it was originally proposed after developers held meetings with residents in nearby neighborhoods.
In 2019, the proposal included 396 units with a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and senior living units, they said, noting the roughly 40% drop to 238 single-family units after meetings with residents.
Still, County Commissioner Tarenia Carthan, who lives near the proposed development, told the city council Thursday that at two cars per home, the subdivision could bring close to 500 new cars to an area that already has traffic problems.
“It is entirely too many units,” she said.
Two traffic studies were performed, one by the developer and another by a third party. The studies concluded in part that, “It is not anticipated that the proposed use will cause an unsafe increase in traffic congestion in the surrounding area” given the “relative low density of the proposal.” The development would have entrances on both Timber Ridge and Prestley Mill with turn lanes and deceleration lanes as recommended by the traffic studies.
Councilman Howard Estes drew laughs when he asked rhetorically if any traffic study in history had shown a new development would cause problems with traffic.
Rita Harper with The Gardens at Kensington subdivision HOA told the council and planning commission their board had voted to support the project after two meetings with the developer.
Dan Holtz, president of the Saddlebrook HOA, also voiced support at both meetings.
Scott Daniell, who lives in the Kensington subdivision, raised concerns that some residents were not aware of the proposed subdivision and didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in. Daniell asked that a decision be put off until at least next month.
Daniell also said he had concerns about traffic, and he questioned whether the hearing was advertised properly in the legal organ newspaper — the Douglas County Sentinel — as required by state law.
The legal advertisement published Sept. 2 mentions the planning commission hearing on Sept. 15 and the Sept. 16 and Sept. 20 hearings before the city council.
Lynn Woodward, an attorney for the city, told the city council Thursday that the notice in the Sentinel met the state’s 15-day requirement because the city council’s hearing Monday, Sept. 20 is the only hearing required and it is the meeting where the council will actually vote on the proposed zoning change.
Daniel Martin, president of the Kensington HOA, told the planning commission he had emailed everyone in his neighborhood to see what concerns the residents had. He said a big concern among residents is the appearance of the homes and the distance between homes.
The developer has agreed to 15 conditions as part of the rezoning request including the use of brick, stone, hardy plank and other materials. As part of the agreement, the developer would not use vinyl siding or synthetic stucco.
The larger lots in the subdivision would be along the edges closer to Timber Ridge and Prestley Mill, and unlike in previous iterations of the project, nothing would be built along Slater Mill Creek, which would leave 37% of the property as green space, according to the development proposal.
The development would have a clubhouse, pool and common area, and sidewalks. As a condition of the rezoning, the developer would construct a 6-foot fence along Prestley Mill with brick columns every 75 feet and black aluminum fencing.
The minimum lot size would be 4,200 square feet. Allison said on the smaller lots houses would be 12 feet apart and on the larger lots they would be 20 feet apart. He said that’s similar to surrounding neighborhoods.
“That is what the buyer wants,” Allison told the planning commission. “Not everybody wants to come in and have a big yard and a lot of maintenance. We’re seeing more and more young folks that want to spend the weekend out playing with their kids and not cutting their grass.”