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Planning Commission recommends rezoning approval for 113 attached townhouses

With little fanfare from previous meetings, the Dawson County Planning Commission

voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning of 18.9 acres for a 113-unit rental development at Beartooth Parkway and Dawson Village Way.

President Jason Hamby withheld the vote, as it was a 4-0 unanimous decision.

District 2 Planning Commissioner John Maloney proposed adding the stipulation that the developer have 25 feet between the face of each garage and the face of the sidewalk or sidewalk.

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners will ultimately approve or deny the rezoning at its June 16 voting session, which will immediately follow the 4 p.m. business session.

The land for the proposed complex is in District 3, represented by Planning Commissioner Tim Bennett. The applicant, Wisconsin-based development company Continental Properties, wants the property to be rezoned from Commercial Highway Business to Residential Multi-Family with the intent of building the townhouse apartments.

In the rezoning application, Planning and Development anticipated that the density of the complex would be approximately six units per acre, which is consistent with the Future Land Use Plan and density-neutral multi-family residential policies.

“The proposed infill development will enhance an underutilized parcel within an existing area that is being developed,” Planning said. “The site is over eighteen acres of vacant land in an established commercial node, which for various reasons has been overlooked in the normal course of commercial growth.”

Senior Development Manager Gwyn Wheeler spoke on behalf of Continental at the meeting. She said the company has been around for four decades, during which time it has developed 30,000 multi-family residences.

There are two locations of the company’s Springs luxury apartment brand in Georgia, one in Newnan and the other in McDonough, and construction is underway on the Authentix complex for the workforce of the company in Cartersville.

Their proposed development in Dawson County would fall under their future brand of Avanterra homes. These homes would range in size from 983 to 1,860 square feet and have between one and four bedrooms, according to Continental’s bid package.

The layout of each residence, whether it be a ranch or a two-story structure, would include an open concept with stainless steel appliances, solid surface countertops, and a washer and dryer, some units also having fenced yards.

Units would either have an extended driveway or an attached one or two car garage with space for one to two cars in the driveway.

Complex garages here should be attached rather than detached to meet local zoning criteria.

“Those you see [on the presentation] that stand alone would be attached to another in the garage, so it would be close to him,” Wheeler said. “We’ve tried to do our best to keep all living areas separate, so you don’t have common walls in one bedroom.”

There would be an amenities area with a central clubhouse, dog park, and swimming pool.

Tenants will have standard one-year leases to rent their homes, and the management team will be made up entirely of Continental staff, rather than a third party.

“It will be a great housing option for the aging population and young people coming out of college,” she said. “They (millennials) have a lot of disposable income, but they don’t want to spend it on their homes. They don’t want to worry about having to pay taxes…they’d rather spend it shopping at [places like] the mall and restaurants.”

Wheeler explained that Dawson County’s employment base, education and income made a potential project attractive in the area.

“The housing supply is not meeting the demand,” Wheeler said. “You see that in view of the rents which are currently soaring, occupations and building permits do not meet demand. It’s what’s driving up house prices that we hear about in the news every day, and it’s driving people to rent…also to buy too much.

She shared a statistic from the apartment listing that 12% of millennials choose not to buy and called renting a choice “not that they can’t buy all the time, but that they don’t want to.” not”.

Continental’s rezoning application said it hopes the Avanterra development will appeal to

people with an average family income of $150,000.

Updated 2020 U.S. Census results for Dawson County showed married couple families in the area earned a median income of $102,404, with local families earning $86,206 overall.

President Hamby inquired about monthly rent prices.

“Our base rent for today – and we’re using revenue management, so it’s hard to say what it would be when we started – but right now our projected rent starts at around $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment at about $2,500 for one bedroom,” Wheeler said, “and that would be base rent.

Things like the garage or upgraded finishes would cost more, she added.

Hamby also asked if any units had already been sold at Continental’s other developments. She explained that when they previously only built two to three communities a year, they had to sell a certain percentage of a community in order to fund future development.

“Since then, we have grown in our investment group, secured trusted development partners and established trusted development partners and established trusted development funds,” Wheeler said, “so we have achieved a place with our capital investment that we no longer need to finance new developments by selling old developments.

She clarified that sometimes selling is an operational decision when, for example, no other Continental resort is nearby to offer support and added that the location near Atlanta would help the company focus on the market in the region for better operational efficiency.

She also shared that with their products, they typically see 10% of residents with school-aged children, as opposed to a traditional single-family subdivision with more children.

Roads and parking

Wheeler described the land as a difficult property in terms of topographic and environmental considerations and called the proposed community better suited than a commercial entity.

The Dawson County Engineering Department said that in light of this project, it is requesting a traffic study for Beartooth Parkway, the widening of portions of Beartooth, the deactivation of lanes and state highways, and the possibility of an additional right of way.

Continental has not yet conducted a comprehensive traffic study, but would be willing to do so, Wheeler said.

The planning department said the development “makes sense due to the lack of adequate frontage on an arterial or collector road”, adding that any sensitive resources would be dealt with during the land development review process and that all landscaping and screening must be “in accordance with Dawson County Code, as amended.”

When Tim Bennett asked about sight distance issues in the steep Beartooth curve, Wheeler said she imagined there would be a lot of clearance.

“While we would like to retain as much of the existing vegetation as there is there, I don’t imagine there will be much left, and then we may have the opportunity to open up viewing corridors,” a- she declared.

Etowah Water & Sewer Authority would require an extension, upgrade or relocation of the water main and sewer needed to serve the development, according to the application package. This must be designed and installed to EWSA specifications at developer’s expense.

Wheeler explained that Continental has yet to do extensive, in-depth engineering, although they are aware of parking and other site constraints.

John Maloney pointed out that apartment communities usually have extra parking or storage to avoid running out of aisle space or having to park on sidewalks.

Wheeler mentioned that there would be off-street parking for visitors near the pavilion, on the north side of the development near Dawson Village Way and toward the east exit.

“We worked with staff and firefighters to try to make sure we took the criteria into consideration. [and] complied with the code…we will continue to try to improve the parking situation as much as possible,” she added.

Maloney recommended “at least one parking aisle for two cars” to avoid a fire or public safety hazard, because even with a one-bedroom unit, two people are likely to live there.

Local development consultant Jim King, who works with Continental, pointed out that enforcing the parking code would be easier since on-site managers would be the only contact as representatives of the sole owner, Continental.

King later added that for units with garages, these structures are located at the rear of the lots.

Maloney said it’s not so much about who enforces parking, it’s about engineering.

“You can design it to not have the problem,” he told King, “or you can have a problem and then you have a problem that has to be enforced somehow and then you have a problem with public safety trying to get in and fight a fire.

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