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Big Creek project reaches planning board
Proposal worries nearby developer
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County's planning board will have the next say in a large mixed-use development proposed for south Forsyth.

Diversified Real Estate Group's plan for The Commons at Big Creek calls for three 115-room hotels, 530 apartments and office and real estate space on 121-acre tract at Ga. 400 and McFarland Road.

The plan has made developers of an adjoining project, Taubman Centers Inc., uneasy.

Taubman is developing an upscale live-work-play community on 164 acres between Union Hill and McFarland roads, south of the Commons site. Its plan also includes hotels, shopping and about 875 residential units.

Representatives of Taubman say they are concerned with infrastructure issues should the property next door be rezoned to master planned district.

The planning commission could give a recommendation Tuesday, which would then go before the commission.

Mark Putney, Taubman's vice president of development, has questioned the Diversified's proposal, which could allow the switch to 530 apartments.
The original plan called for 208 townhomes.

"I have a lot of concerns," Putney said last week, "and that's something I've expressed to the commissioners."

Putney said that if Diversified moves forward with plans, it could burden infrastructure.

"Every bit of sewer capacity [the county] gives away to someone else makes it harder for them to fulfill their obligation to us, and residential is a heavy user of sewer capacity," he said.

Part of the incentives package the county inked with Taubman in December 2008 calls for the county to complete construction of the Ronald Reagan Boulevard Extension and make nearby sewer improvements. It also includes lower sewer tap fees for a period after construction.

Emory Lipscomb, attorney for Diversified, said the infrastructure is not just for Taubman developers.

"The same utilities that are there for [my clients] are there for [Taubman]," Lipscomb said. "The same roads that feed [my clients'] property feed [Taubman's]."

Both Taubman and Diversified have had studies done to look at the need, or lack thereof, for apartment housing in the area.

Lipscomb explained that his client's study, which was performed by Dale Henson Associates, showed that "Forsyth County has not kept up with the need for for-rent housing."

"Consequently, we've been passed on by a lot of businesses who are looking for new locations or to expand," Lipscomb said.

But in a study commissioned by Taubman, Robert Charles Lesser & Co. found otherwise.

According to Putney, the study showed that "there's enough apartment-zoned land today within two miles of this site."

"It confirms there's not a demand for additional units right now," he said.

E-mail Frank Reddy at