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Neighborhood decision postponed after public hearing
Pilgrim Road Development
Developers have submitted plans to rezone 78 acres on Pilgrim Mill Road for a total of 176 units.

Frustrations mounted during recent discussions on a proposed neighborhood in the city of Cumming.

A public hearing was held at the Tuesday, Nov. 16 Cumming City Council meeting for the proposed rezoning of 78 acres at 1785 and 1735 Pilgrim Road from single-family residential district (R-1) to moderate-density residential district (R-2) with concurrent variances for a residential use with a mixture of housing types and a total of 176 units for a density of 2.25 units per acre.

Council members did not vote on whether to approve or deny the project and voted to postpone a decision until its Tuesday, Dec. 7 meeting.

According to plans submitted to the city’s planning and zoning department, the development is planned with two housing types.

The plans say 102 lots would be for homes with 7,020-square-foot lots and the other 74 will be 12,560-square-foot lots.

During Tuesday’s meeting, developer David Hole said the first type would build out to 1,800 square feet and likely cost in the $400,000’s and the others would be 2,400 square feet and likely sold in the $500,000’s.

A previous request for the project included townhomes and would have had a total of 205 units, but developers said at a previous meeting they had dropped that part of the plan.

The development is also planned to include neighborhood amenities include 28.3 acres of open space, walking trails and a sidewalk network.

The site will be accessible from two points on Pilgrim Road.

During the public hearing, neighbors opposed to the project raised issues with the placement of a sign with information on the zoning, which several speakers said was hard to see from Pilgrim Road and had concerns for the density of the project.

“I’ve been there 22 years,” said TJ Kemp, who lives in the nearby Emerald Springs neighborhood. “[My home] is my biggest investment. I don’t have anything bigger, and the fact that there is going to be 2.5 houses that butt up against my backyard, and my backyard is … not that big, there are just simply too many houses in that subdivision.

“We know a subdivision is going in, but that is almost absurd on what you’re doing to that property and what is being proposed [and] what’s going to happened to the rest of the real estate around there.”

Hole said he understood neighbor’s concerns with the project but said he was against postponing a decision because the project had already been delayed and was nearing the end of his contract.

“I understand, I just hate to be the one punished for the sign being in the wrong spot,” he said. “As far as I can think, the buffering is the only thing I can do between me and them. I am doing everything I possibly can to put the trees in so nobody’s looking at the back of each other.”

Hole said he was happy to hear concerns but he had not received calls opposed to the project for about a month prior to the meeting.

Members of the council also voiced issues with how neighbors are notified and directed city staff to look at the process.

“I want to say that I hate that you guys didn’t have the notice that you needed,” said Councilman Christopher Light. “I think that our process could use some tweaking in that regard, but I do got to take up for our staff. Nobody did anything maliciously, and nobody did anything on purpose … but I do understand not having some of the notice that maybe you deserve, and we’ve got to look at that process and make sure we’re providing that notice and giving you that opportunity.”

Before the motion to postpone was approved, a motion to deny the rezoning request was made by Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter but did not receive a second. During the discussion, Ledbetter said she was not opposed to property owners selling land but felt the project was too dense.

The land became part of the city in 2019 as part of a total of 113.5 acres, which included the Sawnee View Memorial Gardens cemetery, that was annexed from Forsyth County.

After being annexed the property was rezoned to the city's annexed property (AP) district.

The AP zoning means a property must have the same standards as the county zoning but must be rezoned to a new city designation within 18 months.

Under state law, newly-annexed properties into the city are required to have a similar zoning to the one it had in the county for at least a year.

The property was rezoned again in January to R-1, which Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow said at the time was the “most comparable thing” to the previous county zoning.