by Jason Wright / Appen Newspapers
MILTON — There were some ruffled feathers at the Milton City Council work session Sept. 14 during a presentation by developer J.T. Adams for a proposed Crabapple "Town Center" project that could include, among other things, a performing arts center, history guild, library and city hall.
Specifically, some members of council and the city's Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) – with whom Adams had met before — did not feel it was prudent for him to be given time for a presentation before the city even knows where its new library will be or what it needs in a city hall. Currently, Milton is undertaking a space needs study for city hall and the county's Library Board is making its own decision.
"I personally think this is putting the cart before the horse," said Kim Horne, who sits on CPAC but was not representing it in her statement. "I don't think we should be presenting this to council, even in a work session, until other developers have had their chance to weigh in on other areas and other sites."
Adams' plan involves the northwest quadrant of Crabapple, including portions of John Wieland Homes and Developments' Braeburn project. The project would be somewhat like old Savannah, he said, and feature a mix of public and private buildings and homes. Funding would be secured through an anonymous donor known for cancer research, Adams said.
Getting the plan to fruition would require a change to the Crabapple Master Plan, because portions of the land would need to be rezoned. That wrinkle is what bothered Horne.
"I guess every time there is a rezoning, there is going to be a presentation sponsored by council members," Horne said.
Mayor Joe Lockwood was quick to announce before Adams took the floor that neither the plan nor presentation was regarded in any official city capacity and its inclusion should not be construed as an endorsement. It was sponsored by councilwoman Karen Thurman, who said that since Adams had been meeting with everyone separately, she figured it would be a good idea to get everyone on the same page.
"If we had the possibility of a foundation that was willing to invest very large sums of money into facilities in our community for a performing arts center or a history center, then it was important that we at least listen to what the opportunity was," she said in a later interview. "I don't see it being tied back to a library, which is not our decision, or to our future decision on a city hall, which will have to go through the full process."
Plus, Thurman said, the foundation is itching to get started. And the whole thing rests on whether or not the city will change the Crabapple Master Plan.
"The area is zoned for high-density residential," she said. "The foundation needs to understand whether or not its a possibility to have that changed."
Adams said he didn't want to be "presumptuous" with any plan.
"I by no means have the best idea. I just want to get the ball rolling," he said.
He added he just doesn't want Milton to turn into a bunch of "Buford Highways and Roswell Roads that isn't worth caring about."
"It's got nothing to do with being a developer, I can guarantee you that," he said.
Lockwood said the presentation was simply Adams' "wish list," and didn't have anything to do with the city's space needs analysis. That process will be governed by a set of specific rules and regulations.
Ga. 9 resident Heidi Sowder said that's what she hopes for. She said she was under the impression the needs analysis would lead to the city issuing an RFP, or request for proposal. Then any number of builders could present plans per city policy.
"Moving forward, everybody ... will have their chance to present," Lockwood said. "This is not tied in with the needs analysis. I see the passion, and I think it looks great, but this in no way means we're tying the two things together."
In an e-mail after the meeting, Councilwoman Tina D'Aversa said the night was "embarassing." The roughly hour long presentation and public comment on it, coupled with the fact Lockwood had to leave at 10, meant that a zoning variance discussion had to be postponed until Sept. 21.
"It was an inappropriate presentation to our city council. This presentation, which circumvented the formal RFP process, caused us to have a four hour meeting and not be in a position to review the entire agenda," she said.
And while she said there was nothing untoward or unethical about the presentation, D'Aversa said it was not the best use of everyone's time given that the needs assessment was presented afterward.
"I have now seen this presentation three times at council members' requests. I would expect that all proposals will receive similar time before the council. We simply do not need to see one presentation multiple times with no changes."