The Auburn City Council denied a motion to amend the Hamilton Place Planned Development District in order to add 4.21 acres and allow 33,000 square feet of office use at the northeast corner of Moores Mill Road and Hamilton Road at its meeting on Tuesday night.
The denial of the amendment negated the need to consider another agenda item that would have approved the office use for the property.
Mayor Ron Anders and City Council members cited safety for motorists and pedestrians as their number one reason for denial due to the offset of the proposed public street and the current standing public street of Bent Brook Drive. Bent Brook Drive also serves as the entrance to Bent Brook subdivision on the opposite side of Moores Mill Road.
Several concerned residents showed up via Zoom to voice their concern with the proposed PDD. For Andrew Price, a Bent Brook resident, it was the complexity of decisions that will need to be made to exit the neighborhood that deterred his support for the approval.
“We don’t have turning lanes the further you get into Auburn,” Price said. “When you get into the complexity of decisions that have to be made of whether or not it is somewhat offset or how you will get in from the access road behind Publix, it is extremely challenging.
“I’ve got two teenage daughters who will be driving soon and, even, with 30, 35 years of driving experiences, I have seen a car turned on its roof coming out of our neighborhood. I very much fear teaching our daughters how to exit our neighborhood to the point of thinking which right turns we can make to end back up at the Moores Mill-Ogletree intersection so that it is much safer.”
Price also stated concerns for his property value due to dissimilar use of the proposed office building and its proximity to the Bent Brook subdivision.
According to Auburn City Manager Megan McGowen Crouch while engineers don’t love to make safety recommendations other than the issue being safe or unsafe, the offset of the proposed public road would create a visibility issue for motorists.
“As we recently studied, with this being offset, motorists are now having to look in three directions,” Crouch said. “You’ve got to look straight across, right or left for conflicts.
“The problem with straight across is a car could turn out right and you could run into them because the turn lane is not extended.”
This concern was also echoed by Alison Frazier, Engineering Services director, who stated that there could be additional delays coming out of Brent Brook due to the offset. However, Frazier did comment that the proposal does meet specifications from the City.
“The proposal does meet our specifications in terms of right-of-way and curb cut,” Frazier said. “We did note in our staff report that it is a little uncharacteristic to have a public street for this type of development.”
The Auburn Planning Commission had previously approved the original proposal for the project that was later denied by City Council back in November 2020.
Mark Hodge, an attorney who has represented TD Development on behalf of the PDD since its original proposal back in August 2020, stated that even though the Planning Commission approved the original use of the PDD for commercial entities and the current standing curb cut, the original proposal was denied with two council members citing safety concerns.
“You denied, stating that safety as the basis even though the city manager at the time, after review of traffic studies and accident report, deemed it to be safe.
“This body has previously denied what city staff deemed to be safe.”
Hodge also believes that his client’s intended use for the property fits well with the current use of Hamilton Place, citing that refusal from the city would deny TD Development its highest and best use of the subject property.
“Our client has demonstrated a willingness to work with city staff and still displays that willingness,” Hodge said. “The development of this portion of Moores Mill Road has already happened.
“It could be seen as inverse condemnation.”
Brett Basquin, who also spoke on behalf of the property owner, PSM Holdings, LLC and TD Development, stated that, despite reworking the original plan to meet city safety standards, the company is still hearing that the design is unsafe.
“Going back to the Planning Commission, their concern was the use of the shared driveway,” Basquin said. “If you recall, they previously recommended approval for this with the shared driveway.
“Just to give a bit of color to the situation, the proposed road location meets the city’s minimum requirements. Based upon conversations today, City Engineering stated that this proposed street was not an unsafe location but they did prefer the previous shared driveway.”
The original proposal that was denied in November 2020 has the opportunity to be considered again by the Planning Commission as early as August.