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City’s planning board recommends approval of Pilgrim Mill Road mixed-use project
Sawnee Village
Plans for the proposed Sawnee Village between Dahlonega Highway and Pilgrim Mill Road.

A request to rezone more than 150 Acres between Pilgrim Mill Road and Atlanta Highway is heading to the Cumming City Council.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16, city of Cumming planning members voted 2-1, with Chairman Ralph Webb and member Brent Otwell in favor and member Ricky Noles opposed, to recommend approval of a request to rezone 152 acres between Dahlonega Highway and Pilgrim Mill Road and east of Pilgrim Mill from office professional (OP), single-family residential district (R-1A) and planned shopping center PSC districts to planned-unit development (PUD) for a development known as Sawnee Village.

Before the vote, Webb reiterated that the board only gives recommendations to the city council and encouraged those for or against the decision to continue to give their thoughts. 

“I know you think sometimes we don’t hear your input, but we do hear your input and we do appreciate everything,” Webb said. “We’re an advisory board, whatever we do tonight still carries forward, and the council still has to vote. Still send in your input, still contact whichever way you feel, one way or another.”

According to a staff report read by Cumming Planning and Zoning Director Scott Morgan, the development will include 823 residential units of different types, 106,700 square feet of retail, restaurant, office and indoor amenity uses and 220,000 square feet for senior living.

According to documents submitted to the city, the development will include 44, 55-foot, front-entry, detached residential units on 12.5 acres; 105, 45-foot rear-entry, detached residential units on 24.6 acres and 72 motor court lots on 21.1 acres.

More than 50 acres of the total development will be used for attached residential units, which will include 27, 20-foot, rear-entry townhomes; 38, 24-foot, rear-entry duplex townhomes near Dahlonega Highway and 78, 27-foot, front-entry townhomes; 75, 24-foot, front-entry townhomes and 117, 20-foot, rear-entry townhomes across Pilgrim Mill Road. 

The development will also include 262 multi-family units on 9.2 acres, 220 institutional-senior living units on 14.6 acres, six vertical mixed-use units on .8 acres, 18.4 acres of commercial uses and about 30 acres of open space.

The development will include four areas with different uses.

Along Dahlonega Highway, there will be a mix of uses including 65 townhomes and six vertical mixed units over businesses as residential options.

That portion of the development will also include 18,900 square feet for retail, restaurant and office uses near Dahlonega Highway, 19,800 square feet for office and retail, a 7,000 square-foot restaurant and 26,000 square feet for indoor amenities.

The senior living portion of the project is proposed with independent living, assisted living and memory care units and is being included with 21,000 square feet for retail, office and restaurant on the west side of Pilgrim Mill for another mixed-use area.

On the east side of Pilgrim Mill, 270 townhome units are proposed in another community.

The other units will go in a community planned between Dahlonega Highway and Pilgrim Mill.

The proposal also includes a central amenity area with a clubhouse, pool, fitness center and outdoor patio space.

Plans for the project also show the proposed North Cumming Bypass, which would extend from Sawnee Drive to Pilgrim Mill Road.

The current proposal is the second time the project has come before city leaders this year.

In January, members of the Cumming City Council voted 3-0, with Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter abstaining and Councilman Christopher Light recused due to a conflict of interest, to deny an application to rezone the land to a PUD for a project called The Villages at Brooks Farm.

The previous proposal was for a mixed-use development 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.

As part of the motion in January, council members gave the property owner an exemption to a typical one-year ban on filing applications for the land where an application has been denied.

During a meeting and public hearing in September, several neighbors shared their thoughts, questions and concerns with the project, including impacts on schools, added traffic and the issues proposed plans.  

Linda Ebert, who lives in the Parkside Walk neighborhood, said at that meeting she respected the families who owned the land and felt there was a workable solution for the project but she and other neighbors were concerned about traffic and the size of the project.

“We’re frustrated that this solution has come in worse, in our eyes, than the previous PUD that was proposed by almost 200 units, which is going to be an additional 400 cars driving on these roads, up to about 1,600 vehicles,” she said.

Following public comments from neighbors, Warren Jolly, with developer The Providence Group, attempted to answer some of the community’s questions, with limited time remaining in the September meeting. 

“We think this is a big step from where it was last time if you understand the plan,” Jolly said at the September meeting. “The problem is we need some more time to get with some of the neighbors and explain this concept and what we’re trying to do, and there’s a lot of things that we can solve that we don’t know about.”