Proposed Hamilton Place PDD office plan

A developer filed suit last month in Lee County Circuit Court against the city of Auburn and the City Council over the council's denial of two requests to amend the Hamilton Place Planned Development District to include 4.21 additional acres for a proposed office park, two decisions that the suit claims were "arbitrary" and "capricious" and represented inverse condemnation and  an "unlawful taking of property."

The developer, TD Development LLC, had sought to expand the Hamilton Place PDD to include the subject property, located near the corner of Moores Mill and Ogletree roads. The Council approved the developer's request to rezone the property from Rural to Limited Development District at its first meeting in November. At the same meeting, the Council denied the request to amend the PDD to include the subject property for a proposed office park of about 33,000 square feet by a 5-4 vote, after residents from Bent Brooke subdivision, which is located across the street from the property, voiced concerns over safety, sight lines and an increase in traffic. 

At that meeting, City Engineer Alison Frazier said that the posted speed limit was acceptable for the location. In response to a question from Auburn Mayor Ron Anders over whether the development would create "the kind of traffic that would overwhelm the road," former City Manager Jim Buston replied, "I don't believe that our studies have shown that there would be a significant danger in that area," a point which Fraizer agreed with. 

"The levels of service of the driveways and the surrounding intersections will not be impacted significantly by the additional traffic proposed by the office use," said Frazier at the November meeting. 

The Planning Department had recommended denial of the request because the office use "does not meet the future land use designation for the cluster residential," according to the staff report in meeting materials. The CompPlan 2030's future land-use designation of Conservation/Cluster Residential encourages conservation subdivisions with a five-acre minimum, a condition the subject property's size did not meet.

The Planning Department did note, however, that the office development "may act as an appropriate transition of intensity from the commercial node at the Moores Mill Road and Ogletree Road intersection to the rural and low-density residential properties to the east."

That iteration of the developer's proposed office park use would have utilized an existing, internal entrance attached to the Hamilton Place Shopping Center. The developer's second request to the City Council in February for an amended PDD included a new curb cut and entrance that was slightly offset from Bent Brooke Drive across the street. The proposed public road was slightly offset in order to meet minimum distance requirements in city code between curb cuts. 

Multiple Bent Brooke residents spoke against the developer's request and the proposed office use at the February City Council meeting, again citing safety and traffic concerns. 

The Planning Commission had recommended denial of the second request during its January meeting. The City Council followed suit in February, denying the request on an 8-1 vote. 

TD Development's suit claims that the City Council voted down its two applications "based upon anecdotal statements of traffic concerns voiced by a few residents of the Bent Brooke subdivision. The Council placed greater weight on these statements than the reports from the City Manager and City Engineer that the proposed project did not have a substantial impact on the traffic along Moores Mill Road ..." and that the council's denial makes the developer "unable to economically develop or put the Subject Property to appropriate use."

The suit seeks a court order for the city to approve the property's inclusion in the Hamilton Place PDD and the office use, as well as an unspecified amount of "full and just" compensation and the cost of attorney's fees. 

Raymond Jackson Jr., the attorney listed for TD Development, did not return a request for comment. City Attorney Rick Davidson also declined to comment on the lawsuit. As of Monday, no hearing date had been set, according to the Circuit Clerk's office, and no documents had been filed in response to the lawsuit. 

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