Proposed Ordinance Amendments Would Pave Way for Apartments in Dacula
Dacula City Council considering amendments to facilitate annexation and development of 157-acre tract near Winder Highway and Highway 316.
Apartments could become part of the Dacula landscape if council approves a set of proposed amendments to the city’s planned mixed use development ordinance.
Earlier this month, city leaders met with representatives from Walton Investing, Mill Creek Consulting and Rochester Engineering regarding the feasibility of annexing just over 157 acres into the city limits and eventually developing the property located near Winder Highway and Highway 316 as a “live, work, play” community.
One problem affecting the potential development is that the city’s current planned mixed used development ordinance is more restrictive than what investors would like. Mitch Peevy of Mill Creek Consulting asked council to consider working with the investment group to modify the ordinance and establish parameters that would make the site attractive to developers.
In an effort to facilitate the annexation and development of the property, Dacula City Planner Joey Murphy recently drafted a set of proposed amendments to the city’s current ordinance. The most significant change would increase the maximum allowable density per acre from eight units to 13 in order to make it possible for developers to construct apartments on the property. Other changes include eliminating the requirement that units be owner-occupied, reducing the required amount of open space in a development from 35 percent to 25 percent, setting the minimum square footage requirement at 600 square feet and changing the building height restriction from three stories to four.
“What it comes down to is does the City of Dacula and the city council and mayor support attached housing at a density up to … 13 units per acre,” Murphy said.
Currently, no concept plan has been submitted meaning city officials do not yet know exactly what the developers intend to do with the property. However, officials have expressed a willingness to explore the possibility of bringing a mixed-used development to the city.
“If there is a place for such a development in Dacula, this is probably the place for it,” said Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks.
However, Wilbanks emphasized the city has little interest in allowing the entire tract to be developed as apartments.
“I don’t think we can allow them to have 157 acres of apartment buildings. I don’t think that’s what we want in Dacula. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.
Wilbanks added that any proposed development must be weighed against the city’s comprehensive plan and the city must also consider the impact on nearby residents.
“The bottom line is we’re all still kind of shooting in the dark,” he said referring to the current lack of a development proposal.
City Administrator Jim Osborn echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“[The development group has] not told us exactly what they want,” Osborn said. “We have not seen a concept plan, they have just simply said ‘Dacula, put something together, let us look at it and we’ll say yes or no.’ So we’re just guessing at this point.”
Osborn explained that should council approve the proposed amendments, several hurdles would still have to be cleared before the project could move forward. Developers must request the property be annexed, submit a detailed concept plan and apply for rezoning. Additionally, the entire project would be subject to review by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a development of regional impact.
The Dacula City Council meets next Thursday, Jan. 5, but the proposed amendments are not likely to go before council at that time according to Mayor Wilbanks.
“I think there are still too many questions out there and too much coordination that needs to take place between the ownership of the property and the city and trying to get something both can live with as we go forward.”