The Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit off Pilgrim Mill Road sits on a hill with bucolic views surrounding it. To the east are dense woods. To the west are rolling pastures with horses and Sawnee Mountain in the distance.
“It is a beautiful tract of land,” attorney Emory Lipscomb, partner with the law firm Lipscomb, Johnson, Sleister, Dailey & Smith, LLP, told a group of a few dozen nearby residents at the beginning of a public meeting at the church on Tuesday, including many members of the church. “All of us have loved it all of our lives that have lived here.”
That land is slated to change dramatically. Lennar Georgia Inc., a Roswell-based homebuilder, wants to build a mixed-use development on eight parcels of land off Pilgrim Mill Road in the city of Cumming totaling 151 acres. Called The Villages at Brooks Farm, it would include 639 residential units and 24,000 square feet of commercial space.
Joe Bowersox, Atlanta land division president with Lennar Georgia Inc., guided those at Tuesday’s meeting through the vision for the development.
He showed them the ranch style of the 264 planned “active adult” homes marketed to people 55 years old and older, ranging in size from 1,700 to 2,600 square feet and priced between the high-$300,000s and mid-$400,000s.
He showed renderings for 25 planned townhomes ranging in size from 1,850 to 2,000 square feet and priced in the $200,000s.
Then Michael McGwier, vice president with The Worthing Companies, a Sandy Springs-based developer, showed them the 350 planned “highly-finished” apartments marketed to “gainfully-employed millennials” and “down-sizing Baby Boomers” for $1,250 to $2,000 a month.
There would be a public park space, Bowersox added, and a new road connecting Pilgrim Mill Road and Sawnee Drive to create a bypass around downtown Cumming.
Those in attendance lamented the development’s potential impact on the area — the increased traffic, the years of construction work, the vanishing countryside views.
But members of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit were most concerned about the 24,000 square feet of retail space slated to be built right against the west portion of their property.
“That doesn’t enhance [our] lifestyle here,” one resident said.
“Somehow, that’s got to go,” said another.
Bowersox said Lennar envisioned the project following in the mold of Mountain Crest, a “resort lifestyle community” that Lennar developed several years ago off Bethelview Road. That, too, was a pasture when Lennar started, Bowersox said, but it has become the No. 1-selling subdivision in the Atlanta area.
“I’m proud of it because I think it looks like a nice community when you drive through it,” Bowersox said.
The Brooks Farm development went through several iterations, Bowersox said. Retail eventually entered the picture, and then plans were delayed while the city of Cumming developed its planned-unit development (PUD) district.
Bowersox said Lennar has “worked pretty diligently with the new mayor and council members” to find a suitable location for the retail space, eventually settling on the northernmost parcel of land right next to the church.
“It’s been moved about every corner it can be on,” Bowersox said.
But even Lennar’s most recent plans aren’t final, one resident noted. The sale of the land by the Pilgrim Mill Family Limited Partnership, LLLC, James S. Mashburn Trust, Ellene M. Place and Burt M. Mashburn isn’t final, nor is Lennar’s rezoning request with the city of Cumming’s Planning and Zoning department.
It had those in attendance eager to attend the city’s next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 16, at 5 p.m. at city hall.
“This is not a done deal,” one resident said.