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Council members deny rezoning application for the Villages at Brooks Farm, lift one-year bar on reapplication
Villages at Brooks Farm

At the Cumming City Council’s work session on Tuesday, Jan. 5, councilmembers spoke about the Villages at Brooks Farm, about 152 acres of land to be rezoned from single-family, office professional, planned shopping center and single-family residential districts to a planned unit development (PUD). Councilmembers voted to deny the rezoning application with a 3-0 vote, with Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter abstaining and Councilman Christopher Light recused due to a conflict of interest.

The Villages at Brooks Farm, a planned mixed-use development between Atlanta Highway and Pilgrim Mill Road, was proposed with 231 age-restricted single-family homes, 25 traditional single-family detached homes, 56 single-family attached townhomes, 335 multi-family units and 42,500 square feet of vertical mixed-uses with 60 residential units over commercial and retail units on the 152 acres of land.

The development was also proposed to include two passive park areas and neighborhood amenities such as a pool, clubhouse and interconnected sidewalks.

The proposed North Cumming Bypass was part of the project as well, which would have extended Sawnee Drive to Pilgrim Mill Road. Lennar Georgia Inc., the developer of this project, would have taken care of the roads within the development with the agreement that the city of Cumming would extend the rest of the project.

During the Jan. 5 meeting, Councilman Jason Evans made a motion to deny the rezoning application with an exemption of the one-year bar to file an application for the rezoning so as not to penalize the property owner.

“I don’t oppose development, quite the opposite, nor do I oppose a PUD,” he said. “But rather, this particular PUD has some problematic issues. They’ve been addressed throughout this process and have been through some changes, but it never reached the point that we needed.”

Evans stated that he did not feel that this particular proposal met the standards of a PUD, not connected in design to a unified whole. He also stated that he had a problem with some of the lot sizes that had been proposed.

“My main reason [for the exemption] is I do not agree with this particular planning development, but I do not feel that the property owner should be penalized as such,” Evans said. “I feel that they should be able to reapply, but I do not feel like this development meets the city of Cumming’s standards.”

 

At a previous meeting, Mary-Helen McGruder, whose family owns the land, said the family has been working on selling the land for the last five years and “it became evident that extended family ownership of property is a recipe for disaster.”

“We have spent 30-plus years trying to get our families out of joint ownership of land,” she said. “While we know that we have been very fortunate that our grandfather, uncle and father recognized the long-term benefits of land ownership in our community, we have also had the very difficult [job] of balancing the family interests of various different ages and stages of life.”

At that meeting, several neighbors spoke out against the development, with many saying they didn’t oppose developing the land as much as the specific proposal, due to issues including wanting no apartments, more greenspace and belief that the development would lower tax values for existing homes.

“We’re not naïve that this eventually could be a mixed-use development, we’re opposing this development,” said Zack McMillian. “We’re opposing the density. We’re opposing the apartments. We’re opposing that it doesn’t meet the spirit of a mixed-use development.”