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Monday, March 18, 2013

Proposed senior complex riles some Milton neighbors.

By Pat Fox The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Some Milton residents say they suspect city leaders are taking a back-door route to allow a development they don’t want near their neighborhood.

The group fears a city study of future land-use along Ga. 9 north will supersede the original comprehensive land-use plan and allow high-density development such as a proposed assisted-living facility for seniors.

The developer, Arrowhead Real Estate Partners, officially pulled its rezoning request earlier this month, just before it was to go before the City Council. The application called for building a 95-unit assisted-living facility and 19 homes on Bethany Bend near Cogburn Road. The nine-acre site is currently zoned agricultural.

Residents in the north Fulton city of 30,000 have fought for years to preserve some of the county’s last pastureland. Large lots and horse farms still garnish roadsides, in contrast to bordering cities where development is more prevalent.

The city says it has encountered a base of activist residents who have a hard time reconciling their desires for the area with the property owner’s rights as title holder.

“But it is not simply going to be rezoned by the city to make it easier for someone to develop the property,” Milton spokesman Jason Wright said.

Just last year, the City Council voted 4-3 to deny construction of a 256-unit apartment complex on Deerfield Road. It was the city’s first apartment application since it incorporated seven years ago, and the developer has filed suit to overturn that decision.

What worries some residents this time is that the Bethany Bend site rests within the city’s land-use study for future development in the area. Some fear the new “visioning study” could rezone the tract without Arrowhead making a formal request.

Representatives from Arrowhead did not respond to requests for comment.

Roger Kubler, who lives near the site, said he left one visioning meeting he attended with the impression that rezoning the nine acres was either going to happen or get some close attention.

The whole concept of allowing such a facility, he said, flies in the face of what the city founders intended.

“They said we want to create a city of Milton, because we want to preserve a rural, equestrian area,” he said. “The only equestrian aspect of this is making citizens feel somehow or other they’re the southbound end of a northbound horse.”

Residents also argue the city has limited funds to make road improvements that would be needed on Bethany Bend if such a facility were built.

Dot Blair, whose home backs up to the site, said she objects to the way the city has handled resident concerns on the land-use plan. Developers, she said, appear to have been given as much or more say in the process than homeowners.

“Now we’re being asked to sit down and negotiate,” Blair said. “All we’re trying to do is preserve what this city was founded for.”

In an attempt to help the situation, the city has set up meetings between the residents and the property owner to try and reach an amicable agreement, Wright said.

“This process has just started, so perhaps the residents you spoke to were not aware of the tremendous amount of time and resources Milton is expending to ensure the city grows smartly and with considerations to all residents,” he said.

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