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Alan Hawkins speaks in opposition to a proposed car wash and self-storage facility in Woodstock.

WOODSTOCK — Conditional use permit requests for a car wash and self-storage facility west of Interstate 575 on Highway 92 will go to the Woodstock City Council without the approval of a majority of planning commissioners.

Wilson Development Group has proposed a three-story self-storage building and a car wash next to an incoming drive-through restaurant between Downsby Lane and Fitchburg Drive. The restaurant is allowed by right under current zoning, but the other two require conditional-use permits.

After two hours of presentations, questioning and public comments, commissioners killed a motion to approve the plan in a split vote at their meeting Thursday. Commissioners Debra McPherson and Renee Gable, as well as Commission Chairman James Drinkard, voted against the plan, and Rod Chumbley and David Hacker voted to recommend approval. Commissioner Matt Newman was absent, and the other post is vacant until next month since Robert Tidwell was named municipal judge.

Residents near Downsby Lane and Fitchburg Drive spoke against the project in January and again on Thursday, citing concerns about noise, traffic and neighborhood property values. Some wanted to see other uses for the space, like another restaurant, retail or office space.

Alan Hawkins pointed to incoming residential growth as an indicator that the area could use more retail.

“The marketing analysts may not show it’s currently able to sustain nicer retail projects but that’s all about to change. If the city would just wait, it’s quite possible that this parcel, and the 11-acre parcel behind Racetrac could be developed out together as a whole project to put in a nice quaint market area with walking distances between stores where people can do lots of purchases, increasing sales tax in the community and property tax,” Hawkins said, adding that he would also like to see a business park there.

Conditions recommended by staff include making sure the car wash is parallel to Highway 92 to reduce noise and requiring dumpsters and dumpster pads to be away from rear areas. The developer also suggested adding sound barriers to the ends of the car wash tunnel.

Gable said that she didn’t support the plans because the area is important for Woodstock’s future growth.

“It is a conditional use permit, conditional, not by right,” she said. “This is the next section of Woodstock that we are going to build out. If you’ve done any of the long-range planning, which I have, this is an important area, so I’m very much against this.”

Kevin Frazier, a principal at the development company, said WDG had tried to find other types of businesses for that space, but they weren’t interested based on market trends for the area.

“I’d love to see office, I just understand demand, I understand the market and I understand value. I feel and understand that the market is driving this,” said Hacker, who made the motion to recommend approval.

The case was first brought up to commissioners at their Jan. 9 meeting, but they voted to table it because a recent site plan was not available to city staff. When Frazier returned to the commissioners Thursday, he presented a sound study that showed the businesses would be within city regulations, and a housing analysis he conducted of Atlanta-area communities which showed no change in property values where self-storage facilities were built.

The car wash and self-storage case will be heard by the City Council Monday, Feb. 24.

Commissioners also weighed a potential annexation of five parcels with a total of 31 acres on South Cherokee Lane, which includes plans to build 84 single-family homes.

With 84 homes on 28 acres, the Toll Brothers project would have a density between Madison Falls subdivision to the north and the Lakestone subdivision to the west, attorney Parks Huff said. The homes are planned to look like those in Lakestone, with prices starting above $400,000 and going into the $500,000s.

“We quite frankly don’t have enough places that are suburban, family friendly type neighborhoods, and this is the opportunity you have here to do that,” Huffs said.

Residents have raised concerns about increased traffic on South Cherokee Lane, which the city and county consider substandard. Because of this, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners in their review proposed that the city and developer should contribute to right-of-way acquisition and construction costs required to improve the road south of the annexed land. The county supported the annexation, but requested a $350,000 contribution that was not included in city staff’s or the planning commission’s recommended conditions.

The annexation would also create a pocket of unincorporated land, one parcel connected by a small strip to the rest of unincorporated county property in that area.

City staff’s recommended conditions include a northbound left turn lane on South Cherokee Lane into the subdivision, a pool and pool house for amenities and contributions to road improvements or another agreement.

Commissioners voted to recommend approving the annexation and other requests with staff conditions, 4-1 with Drinkard opposed. The chairman cited his and other city officials’ desire to balance its large residential tax digest with commercial growth.

Also at the meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to approve recommending conditional-use permits for a new car dealership next to Hennessy Honda. The dealership is planned to open at the current site of Big Lots, and its requests mainly are to preserve the existing building and parking lot, as well as lights in the lot.

Because of the Big Lots move, Hennessy Honda, which has been parking extra inventory there among other lots, is looking for a new solution to store vehicles. The Honda dealership requested a conditional-use permit for a storage parking lot, which commissioners unanimously denied. All of the cases presented to the planning commission will go on to the city council for a final vote. Regular meetings start at 7 p.m the second and fourth Monday every month at the Chambers at City Center, 8534 Main St. in Woodstock.

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Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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(1) comment

PatBear

[sleeping][sleeping] Its sad that Cherokee county citizens seem asleep at the wheel while their elected officials are making these major policy decisions... no support... no opposition ...just silence. When they finally wake up it may be too late.

Truly "We get the government we deserve" [crying]

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