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DACULA, GA-A land acquisition has ended a rezoning scenario that triggered two lawsuits that have now become void.

Elected Gwinnett County officials paid developer Jim Braden a premium $1.9 million, or $100,000 per acre, for a 19-acre tract within the 1,500-acre Gwinnett Progress Center, county staffers confirm for GlobeSt.com. Braden paid $500,000 or about $26,000 per acre for the dirt in 2002.

The county bought the land to settle a second lawsuit filed by Publix Supermarkets Inc. of Lakeland, FL, as GlobeSt.com previously reported. Publix sued the county for breach of contract after elected officials approved Braden’s request to rezone the industrial tract for the development of 600 townhomes and single-family residences. Braden later reduced the number of units to 138 townhomes that would be built eight homes to an acre.

The suit alleged the county had promised Publix the land would remain zoned as industrial to protect the grocer’s $350-million investment in an expanding distribution center in this town about 35 miles northeast of Downtown Atlanta. In May of this year, the county reversed itself and kept the industrial status on the land to settle the first Publix suit, as GlobeSt.com also previously reported.

Then Braden again applied for a residential rezoning, noting he had amended his previous development plan to 80 single-family homes. Gwinnett County commissioners again approved the rezoning. And Publix, again, sued for the second time.

In June, county commissioners thought they had resolved the controversy by allowing Braden and other developers to develop several other parcels within the park and away from the Publix distribution center. Then came complaints from citizens groups near the Gwinnett County Airport/Briscoe Field across GA 316. They argued the residential developments would clog roads, hinder traffic, choke school capacity and interfere with the airport’s landing strips.

So the county once again denied the residential zoning and bought the entire 19 acres itself for use as a park or recreational area. Before doing the deal, commissioners asked for and received two independent appraisals, people in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com. The first appraisal came in at $3.1 million or $163,000 per acre. The second was for $1.7 million or about $89,000 per acre.

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