Following a favorable ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court, Suwanee's mayor said that the city will "continue to implement appropriate zoning and planning tools" in development matters.
The state's high court ruled Monday (February 18) that a lawsuit by developers Settles Bridge Farm LLC was filed improperly, and that the developers should have tested Suwanee's special-use permit process before suing. The high court's ruling reversed a Gwinnett Superior Court jury award of $1.8 million in the developers' favor.
Suwanee City Council imposed its permit in 2008 after learning that the developers had a contract to sell 36 acres of residential property to a private school, which wanted to build a multi-grade campus in the Moore Road area.
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The city imposed the permit because it felt that residents in the area, which is also along Settles Bridge Road, would not like such a school, and the ensuing traffic situation, in their area.
"Of course, we’re pleased that the Supreme Court ruled in our favor,” Mayor Jimmy Burnette said Monday in a news release. “We were confident all along that our actions were legal and appropriate for our community and that the Supreme Court would understand the complexities of this case."
The developers, as well as school officials, testifed in the Gwinnett Superior Court trial that they felt applying for the special-use permit would have been futile. In effect, the Supreme Court ruled that applying was necessary before any lawsuit could have been filed.
The school long since has canceled its contract to buy the land, which is still zoned residential.
The city noted that the special use permit process for large-scale projects implemented in 2008 remains in place. The process does not prohibit such development, but allows the city to more closely evaluate such projects.
At the time the school project was being proposed, the city was in the final stages of drafting its 2030 comprehensive plan. That calls for the preservation of established residential neighborhoods.
Through this legal process, Suwanee officials never wavered in their position on the matter. Even mediation, ordered by the trial judge to try to end the dispute, did not work.
“Throughout this process and the subsequent court case,” Burnette added, “the City has received tremendous support from residents along the Moore Road area, who did not want to see the character of their area changed.”