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Neighbors Oppose Potential New Development in Gainesville


In Gainesville, Georgia, about two miles north of the historic square, is an undeveloped piece of land along Thompson Bridge Rd. The 30-acre lot sits between two quiet residential streets and is adjacent to Linwood Nature Preserve. The land has recently sparked the interest of a construction company named Prestwick Development.


The acreage is currently zoned for residential construction, which allows for single family residents only. Prestwick is attempting to have it re-zoned through city council so that they can build a multi-use apartment complex that would include town homes and retail space. In total, the project will have 460 units, for rent only, that range from one to four bedrooms. Additionally, plans include three or four units at the entrance that would serve as retail and restaurant frontage.


On Oct. 11 and 12, community meetings were held at the nearby First Baptist Church in one of their basement’s large Sunday school rooms. Two representatives from Prestwick, including Gray Messier, the company’s vice president of development, met with residents in the area to explain their plans, field concerns and answer questions ahead of the company’s December bid to re-zone.


Several dozen neighbors showed up, many in vehement opposition to the proposed development. One concern posed by attendees was the number of cars that would be added to the already busy traffic on and around Thompson Bridge Rd. With 460 units of varying sizes, the complex could bring anywhere from 500 to 1,000 additional cars to the often-congested road. “Those of us who live on Mountain View Drive can attest to the fact that we’re taking our lives into our hands every time we want to turn left onto the main road (Thompson Bridge)” said Barbara West, whose property backs up to the land in question.

The Prestwick employees acknowledged existing traffic issues but proposed that their plans to put a stoplight at the entrance of the development would offset the additional cars. “There’s already a traffic light about a quarter mile from the one they say they’re going to put in,” says Keith Dyer, “If a light was going to fix the traffic problem, it would already be fixed. We need one here at Mountain View Drive, not up the road- and the last thing we need is more cars.”


Another concern of locals is the effect that such a high volume of people in that space would have on nature both in and around the piece of land that Prestwick wants to build on. Within the 30-acre lot is the mouth of one of the oldest natural springs in the southeast. It was the source of fresh drinking water for earlier settlers in the area and still serves the local flora and fauna. That water flows through Linwood Nature Preserve and into Lake Lanier.

The city has yet to do an environmental impact survey to indicate how construction and residential waste would affect the already deteriorating state of Gainesville’s water table and wildlife. “If we continue to take away natural spaces, I don’t know how I’ll keep the deer from eating the plants in my garden. So many get hit on Thompson Bridge already, it seems like every day. They need their habitat.” Says Jamie Nelson, a neighbor and former Master Gardener.

Victoria Irwin’s home shares a property line with the undeveloped acreage. She has a young family and is worried about potential crime and yearly turnover of neighbors that would be right in her backyard. After moving to the area only two years ago, she says that she and her husband plan to sell their home if Prestwick’s plan is approved.

“I might be more open to it if the units were going to be for sale. I just think that so many renters would be too much unknown for me to feel safe letting my kids play in the yard the way I do now.”

-Victoria Irwin


City Council was contacted for comment on their upcoming meeting where Prestwick plans to request the zoning change, but they did not respond. Although opposition is strong amongst local residents, the development plans that Prestwick has presented were made in consideration of Gainesville’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan to expand the city’s economy and improve accessibility. Only time will tell if City Council will choose to honor the feelings of its existing community or pursue the growth offered by a mixed-use development such as this.

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