The Suwanee City Council voted to approve a rezoning request during its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, despite staunch opposition from residents of the Suwanee North area and their supporters.

This ordinance rezoned the 4800 block of Settles Bridge Road from R-140 to R-100, allowing for a higher population density in the area, which is to be developed by Toll Brothers into a detached, single-family neighborhood.

Toll Brothers is a national, Fortune 500 construction company that specializes in developing upscale residential areas. The crux of their justification for the rezoning lay in the feasible profitability of developing the 121 acre lot into a neighborhood.

Mitch Peevy spoke in favor of the ordinance, explaining the layout of the development and how it complies with the city’s guidelines on population density by limiting the proposed neighborhood to 174 lots, which would be about 1.43 units per acre. He also pointed out that the development would voluntarily designate 13 acres of green space in the neighborhood to be left to the homeowners association.

Despite the proposed neighborhood’s compliance with city codes, residents of the area came to the meeting en masse to protest the rezoning ordinance, believing that a higher population density would be detrimental to the character of the area, that it would not comply with the city’s vision and that the proposed plan contained inherent flaws and contradictions.

“This application does not align with the city’s comprehensive plan for the Suwanee North charter area,” said Cris Koenigs, a resident of Settles Bridge Road. “The focal points (of our argument) include ownership and corporate rights, purely free-market derived buyer and seller data, contradiction within the city’s own assessments and policies (and) evidence that this application is likely not what it is proposing to be regarding the application’s true intentions and number of homes planned.”

Suwanee resident Heather Paulin speaks before the Suwanee City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Suwanee City Hall. Photo by Chris Bellows.

Heather Paulin, a resident of Suwanee for the past six years, also spoke against the ordinance. 

“Rezoning the last open tract of land in Suwanee which is zoned for 30,000-square-foot lots currently down to 18,500-square-foot lots is not consistent with Suwanee’s 2040 comprehensive plan,” she said. 

“The plan specifically states future development in Suwanee North be maintained as low-density residential area and adhere to the existing character of the surrounding communities … Voting for this rezoning to R-100 with its current ambiguity and flexibility of those additional acreages will change the composition of Suwanee North,” Paulin continued.

The opposition to the ordinance also made it clear that they were not against a future development in the area, but they wanted to maintain the character of the Suwanee North area by keeping the population density as it was, which they believed could still result in a sufficiently profitable development.

Given the chance to speak in response to the opposition, Peevy said, “We applied for 174 lots. I don’t know where the bait-and-switch is. If you want to make that a condition, that we can’t have any more than 174 lots, we’re good with that … I’ve been doing rezoning work for over 30 years. That’s one of the lowest densities that I’ve ever come in for the Gwinnett County area.

“It’s one thing to have five or seven acres of R-140 and sell off those lots, it’s another thing to have 121 plus acres of it and try to do R-140 and sell off those lots … we’re trying to be realistic,” Peevy continued.

As the proposal came to a vote, opposing residents held up signs that read “DENY” in bright red letters.

Council member Beth Hilscher made a motion to approve the rezoning with two additional conditions.

“Residential lots adjacent to or within 100 linear feet of River Club or Suwanee Farms homes adjacent to Meadowbrook Circle shall comply with the minimum lot size and lot width requirements for the R-140 zoning district …” Hilcher said. “Open space shall be maintained approximately as shown as Exhibit A, and a total minimum of 21 acres. The acreage includes the cemetery and amenity area.”

Council member Linnea Miller seconded the motion, and the rezoning ordinance passed by a five to one vote with council member Heather Hall the only opposition.

After the meeting, Paulin said, “Obviously there are a lot of citizens that are disappointed … at least there are a couple of adjustments that they made. 

“Some people that said they were going to vote against it voted for it, so that was a little disappointing,” she added. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Suwanee residents who opposed a rezoning request that came before the Suwanee City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, at Suwanee City Hall, hold up signs that read “Deny.” Photo by Chris Bellows. 

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