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Retail center gets go-ahead on Hwy. 20
Deal breaks deadlock between Sanders, neighbors
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Forsyth County News

After more than a year of negotiations, residents appear to have reached an agreement with a developer on 28 acres along Hwy. 20 just east of Cumming.

Following 5-0 votes Thursday by the Forsyth County commission to amend zoning conditions, Sanders-M Square can move forward with plans for a 277,000-square-foot shopping center between Sanders and Nuckolls roads.

Residents of Grove Park Subdivision, located several hundred feet behind the proposed development, have attended many meetings with the developer and commissioners trying to find a compromise.

"We're here to get something amenable to us that also preserves the quality of life for nearby residents," said Ethan Underwood, an attorney for the developer.

Grove Park resident Denise Housley attended meetings with the developer for eight months leading up to Thursday night's decision. One of Housley's concerns with the project was a stream that drains from the site.

The developer agreed to a water filtering system that would eliminate any chemicals from the property's runoff, which flows into a stream that runs through Grove Park.

"The stream touches many of the properties in Grove Park," Housley said. "The water filtering system removes most chemicals from storm water runoff. The developer has taken a big step forward."

Underwood credited Chairman Charles Laughinghouse with helping bring about the compromise.

"It's a win-win for both parties," Underwood said.

The zoning amendment had been placed on the commission's meeting agenda many times since January. Until Thursday night, though, it had been postponed every time.

Commissioner David Richard weighed in on the matter prior to Thursday's meeting.

"They finally decided to sit down and get this thing worked out," Richard said.

"Grove Park is so close to [Hwy.] 20. Everything that occurs around them is going to be of higher intensity than what their homes look like. Who knew 20 was going to be the vibrant, commercial corridor it is now?"

The issue actually dates back several years.

In 2004, Knuckles Road LLC wanted to develop the property. In January 2005, it received a clearing and grading permit, followed by a second clearing and grading permit five months later.

But the plan never came together, and Sanders-M Square acquired the property in 2007.

Potential anchor stores for Sanders-M Square have not been secured, according to Underwood, although he said JCPenney has shown some interest in the project.