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CANTON – The Cherokee County Planning Commission previewed Tuesday two residential developments that the board of commissioners are expected to hear next month, unanimously recommending approval of 101 townhomes and denial of a property proposing a mix of single-family, age-restricted and assisted living communities.

Age-restricted and assisted living ‘out of place’

A proposal submitted to the planning commission by Stonecrest Homes and Charles Heiser on Tuesday calls for 118 residential units and an 88-bed assisted living facility on about 56 acres off East Cherokee Drive near Canton.

The application also asks for the rezoning of the property from general agricultural and planned unit development zoning to a mix of conservation subdivision, a section of high-density residential and neighborhood commercial uses.

At the start of Tuesday’s public hearing of the case, planning staff presented a summary to the commission, which included an explanation that a 20-acre portion of the property had previously been planned for commercial development.

Heiser addressed the planning commission at the meeting, saying that he and the developers had gone through multiple rounds of public input meetings and tried to listen to the wants and needs of neighbors. He showed a site plan, edited three times, which proposed 49 age-restricted homes, 34 “independent cottages,” 35 single-family homes and an 88-bed assisted living facility.

The assisted living facility would be sold to another company for development and maintenance, according to his presentation.

Eleven area residents spoke against the proposal at the public hearing. None spoke as proponents.

Many of the residents lived in the neighboring Mill Creek subdivision, and most comments related to concern over an increase in traffic, a lack of fit for the surrounding rural area and a deviation from the county’s future land use plan. Several residents also expressed concern with the project’s zoning setting a precedent for future development in the area, which they referred to as an “oasis” of country estate character in a developing county.

In his rebuttal, Heiser said he and other developers were simply trying to get out ahead of the future needs of homeowners in the county and apologized for inadvertently upsetting neighbors. Heiser did, however, ask the planning commission for their blessing to go forward with the project.

Planning commissioners tended to agree with residents during their discussion before a vote. Commissioners felt that the proposal did not fit in the area applied for.

Commissioner Rick Whiteside pointed out that the conservation subdivision proposed for the property did not meet the intent of the conservation design. He also said that traffic from the other subdivisions and developments under construction in the area “have not yet been realized.” A summary of the project suggests that an additional 630 trips per day could be expected on area roads.

Commissioner Scott Barnes said he appreciated the effort from developers, but felt that the proposal placed an “undue burden” on neighbors.

Commissioner Tom Ware also agreed with residents that if even a portion of the property were to be rezoned for high-density residential, it could create a “domino effect” for the area’s development. Ware added that there are other assisted living facilities in the area, and felt that there was not yet a need for another.

The commission recommended the proposal for denial by a 9-0 vote.

Townhome development recommended for approval

Planning commissioners were complimentary Tuesday of an application for a 101-unit townhome development proposed for the intersection of Univeter Road and Marietta Highway in Canton.

The proposal, submitted by applicants Pacific Group and Kevin Seifert, requests the rezoning of the 14.88 acres from suburban residential and general commercial zoning to a higher residential use.

A site plan for the project shows a split development with 46 units on the west side of Marietta Highway and 55 on the east, south of Univeter Road.

Seifert, addressing the commission, said the county’s comprehensive plan supports Pacific Group’s proposed use, making it a perfect fit for the area.

He also addressed concerns that developers had heard about the project. Seifert said they have worked with neighboring land and business owners to incorporate site plan updates into the proposal that would quell fears and improve infrastructure in the area – sewer connections and additional parking for the well-known Biscuit Barn will be added as part of the project.

Only one resident voiced concerns with the project at the night’s meeting. Those concerns included increased traffic and speeding on Marietta Highway, the future need for expansion of the highway and access to the proposed development and others.

Whiteside began discussion, complimenting developers’ application and “willingness to work with the surrounding community.” Commissioners Thais Escondo echoed those comments, and Ware added that the location was “as good as you’re going to get” for a townhome development.

The commission voted 9-0 in favor of the proposal.

Thomas is a government, business, crime and features reporter for the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

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