CONYERS — A proposal to rezone 93.5 acres at 1761 Klondike Road in Conyers from R1 to CRS for a 191-home subdivision was deferred Tuesday to give the developer, county and nearby residents time to work out several issues, including concerns about water runoff overflowing a nearby lake.
The property, which sits between Walker Lake Road and Smryna Road, is known by many in the area as the old Ledbetter Farm, and the property borders Walker Lake on its eastern side. Under its current R1 (single family residential) zoning, 105 homes could be built on the property. The developer, VI Land Sales LLC, is seeking a rezoning to CRS (Collaborative Residential Subdivision) in order to build 191 homes.
CRS zoning requires water and sewer capacity for the project and the developer will pay to have sewer lines run to the property. It also requires that 30% (27 acres) be undisturbed and maintained as green space.
The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on the rezoning at its July 23 meeting. Planning and Zoning Director Kc Krzic said staff recommended approval, but that the Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend denial and urged the developer to talk with residents opposed to the rezoning.
Attorney John Nix, representing VI Land Sales, told the BOC the property has been zoned R1 for more than 20 years and that it is “turnkey ready” for development in R1, with no need for rezoning public hearings before the board. But, said Nix, under the CRS zoning they are seeking, the development will be much more environmentally friendly.
“The CRS zoning is to minimize stormwater runoff, erosion, and sedimentation by minimizing land disturbance and removal of mature trees and vegetation,” Nix said. “The 27 acres of undisturbed land will make a big difference as far as runoff, compared to clearing the land for R1 sites.
“CRS also requires 20-foot buffers with berms planted up to 6 feet along the side running parallel to Smyrna Road. On the eastern side that runs along the Walker Lake property, that would require us to have 50 feet of undisturbed buffer. The applicant is willing to go to a 100-foot buffer,” he noted. “That not only creates more visual screening, but it also creates a greater undisturbed area. We will lose six lots by doing that.”
Nix said his client is willing to have the increased buffer and two other conditions placed on the rezoning, as follows:
♦ The construction traffic will be limited to the Klondike Road entrance and will not go through the existing streets off Smyrna Road. That is access number one. No construction traffic will be allowed on Lee Drive or Smyrna Lane.
♦ There is a pocket park shown on the conceptual plan between lots 128 and 129. The county doesn’t want the pocket park there, so the pocket park will be shifted.
Five residents representing neighborhoods in the area spoke out against the rezoning. Their main concerns dealt with the development increasing stormwater runoff issues that they say they are already having to deal with from previous developments or poorly planned infrastructure; an increase in traffic on the two-lane roads; and the amount and quality of water flowing from the development into Walker Lake.
Roy Skinner is one of a number of third-generation families living on Walker Lake Road. He said the lake is important to Rockdale County as a flood dam.
“It is a Georgia Safe Program Class I Dam,” said Skinner. “We have spent over $150,000 making sure our dam is safe and protecting life and property downstream. Our main concerns are the peak magnitude flow of water coming from the CRS development. The quality of water coming from the CRS development, and the buffer zone between our lake and the CRS development. Since Rockdale County cannot force an HOA to keep up the retention pond, it could cause the magnitude flow to go beyond safe levels. And since Rockdale County does not monitor water from retention ponds, 56 extra houses would pollute and lower our water quality.”
Jack and Joan Edwards live on Lee Drive and expressed another concern. Lee Drive is currently a cul-de-sac, but in the developer’s plans it would be connected and opened as a second entrance/exit for the subdivision. They asked that their street remain a dead end.
BOC Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. stated he was taken on a tour of the Walker Lake property abutting the Ledbetter property and understands the concerns of residents about the stormwater runoff into the lake and other areas. He urged the developer and residents to get together to work out their differences.
“The developer has all the right in the world to move forward in R1 without this hearing,” said Nesbitt. “But they are willing to make concessions to listen and hear the folks in Walker Lake and the other neighborhoods. There is still some time on the clock left.”
At the BOC work session on Aug. 6, Krzic stated her staff had incorporated the developer’s three conditions into the rezoning request, and is currently working to find another point of access, rather than opening up Lee Drive.
Nesbitt added that Stormwater Director Todd Cosby went out to Walker Lake to talk to the homeowners about their concerns and said he saw some issues that need to be addressed and mitigated by the county.
“I found it quite interesting that he (Cosby) is going to have a direct conversation with the developer, because he shares some of the same concerns about the existing pond over on the old Ledbetter property and that spillway,” said Nesbitt. “That was some of the concerns of the residents, about the county’s responsibility to make sure that we mitigate and don’t have continued problems, make sure that the buffer is there and they will increase it.”
At the BOC meeting Tuesday, Krzic asked that the final vote on the rezoning be deferred as discussions on resolving some of the issues are still ongoing.
“The applicant’s attorney, Mr. Nix, is currently working with the homeowners and the property owner,” said Krzic. “We heard several comments that we are trying to rectify, although those have been addressed in an updated site plan. We have more to come.”
Nesbitt was absent from the meeting, but a motion to defer the rezoning vote was made and approved by Commissioners Sherri Washington and Dr. Doreen Williams. A date will be set later to for the final vote on the request.