Wednesday, January 31, 2007

City Seeks Board, Commission Nominees

Candidates need to submit names by Feb. 8

The City of Milton is seeking residents interested in serving on one of several boards and commissions.

Candidates are needed for the Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, Design Review Board, Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals, and the Board of Ethics. Interested persons should contact Erika Sherman in the city’s Community Development Department, 678.579.9449. Starting Feb. 5 when the new city hall opens, that number changes to 678.242.2534.

Deadline to submit your name for consideration is Feb. 8. The Mayor and Council members will make their appointments at the Feb. 15 regular meeting. Appointees to the Planning Commission, Design Review Board and Board of Zoning Appeals must go through a training session on Saturday, Feb. 17 starting at 8 a.m. at City Hall, located in building 100 of the Deerfield Professional Centre, 13000 Deerfield Parkway.

Here is a synopsis of the duties, responsibilities, qualifications and meeting schedules of the various boards and commissions.

Board of Zoning Appeals

The Board of Zoning Appeals consists of seven members and meets on the third Tuesday of each month. The meeting time will be determined once the board is seated. The purpose of the BZA is to hear and decide on requests for relief from the provisions of the City of Milton Zoning Ordinance. The BZA also considers appeals of any decision or interpretation made by the Community Development director. The Community Development staff provides the application submitted by the applicant with any supporting documentation. The staff does not make any recommendations to the BZA. The BZA will vote to approve, deny or defer the request if additional information would be helpful in making the determination. There are no specific qualifications for the BZA other than residency within the city, citizenship or legal residence and be a minimum of 21 years old. The terms of the members will run concurrently with the Mayor and each Council member. The Mayor’s nominee can reside anywhere within the City and each Council member’s appointee must reside within his or her council district.

Northwest Fulton Overlay District Design Review Board

The NWFDRB consists of seven members and meets once a month. The day and time of the meeting will be determined once the board is seated. The DRB reviews all non-residential plans for development within the Northwest Fulton Overlay Zoning District and all plans for development including single-family residential properties within the Crabapple and Birmingham Crossroads Overlay Districts for compliance with the standards within the Zoning Ordinance. The board shall make recommendations to the Community Development Department prior to the approval of a Land Disturbance Permit, Building Permit or Primary Variance within all of the above overlay districts. Each Council member and the Mayor will nominate his or her designee for one of the seven positions on the DRB. Each of the Council member’s designees shall be residents, own land, be a business owner, professional architect and /or land planner, who either maintain primary residence and/or business within his or her respective council district; the Mayor’s designee shall reside or own a business anywhere within the City. Citizenship or legal residence is required and the nominee must be a minimum of 21 years old. The terms of the members will run concurrently with the Mayor and each Council member.

Planning Commission

The Planning Commission consists of seven members and meets on the fourth Thursday of every month. The meeting time will be determined once the board is seated. The PC is an advisory board which reports its findings and recommendations to the Mayor and City Council. The commission is charged with upholding the policies of the City of Milton Comprehensive Plan when reviewing rezonings, use permits, concurrent variances, and any changes to the City of Milton Zoning Ordinance, associated Zoning Map and Comprehensive Plan. There are no specific qualifications for the PC other than residency within the city, citizenship or legal residence and be a minimum of 21 years old. The terms of the members will run concurrently with the Mayor and each Council member. The Mayor’s nominee can reside anywhere within the City and each Council member appointee must reside within his or her council district. The first meeting of the Planning Commission will be Thursday, Feb. 22.

Construction Board of Adjustments and Appeals

The construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals is a seven-member board charged to grant variance to the adopted building codes/construction materials and techniques. This board meets only as needed, but must meet within 30 days of the Community Development Department accepting an appeals application. There are no requirements for board members, but one would expect the members to be knowledgeable in the field of construction and be familiar with construction techniques and materials. Appropriate members would be architects, builders, tradesman including plumbers, electricians and mechanical contractors. Each Council member and the Mayor will nominate his or her designee for one of the seven positions.

Board of Ethics

The Board of Ethics consists of seven members whose terms shall run concurrently with their nominating Council member or Mayor. Members shall have been a resident of the city for at least one year preceding the date of taking office and remain a resident during their term. Members shall not be elected officials, persons appointed to elective office, full-time appointed officials (whether exempt or non-exempt) or city employees and shall hold no elected public office nor any other city office or emplacement The board shall elect one of its members to serve as chairperson. No person may serve more than two consecutive terms. Members are volunteers and shall receive no compensation.

The board shall develop and adopt written procedures, be authorized to administer oaths, conduct hearings to review specific cases in which a violation of the Ethics Ordinance is alleged, submit an annual report to the Mayor and City Council. The board shall also establish process for evaluating all significant aspects of the administration and implementation of the Ethics Ordinance. The board shall determine their meeting frequency as necessary to perform their duties.The Board of Ethics meets only as needed.

The City of Milton, incorporated on Dec. 1, 2006, is a community of some 20,000 residents in northwest Fulton County. With its numerous horse farms, family-friendly neighborhoods and limited commercial development spread out over 23,000 acres, Milton offers a rural, small-town atmosphere that still affords easy access to the big-city amenities of nearby Atlanta.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Milton may muffle high school's noise

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Anderson Lee of contributed to this article.
Published on: 01/25/07

Joe Creamer was sitting in his living room one July evening, feeling the noise pulsing against his body. The windows were rattling with every beat from the rap song blaring from the oversized speakers of Milton High School stadium about 100 feet away.

And it wasn't the first time. He marched to the control room where a parent volunteer was jamming out and asked him to turn it down.The parent said no, the speakers belonged to the school district and he was in his rights to use them. Moreover, Creamer says the parent threatened to have him arrested for trespass if he didn't leave.

Milton High School; Rude Neighbor.

"When they started the new school, they promised it would only be for five home games, but there's five varsity games, five JV games and five freshman games," he said. "The noise is deafening. The whole house shakes. It comes through my house. There's no place you can hide."

Creamer's house predates the school, which opened in 2005, by about 12 years. School District spokeswoman Susan Hale said the school has tried to work out a mutually satisfactory agreement.

"We have not turned a deaf ear to his complaints," she said. "We have been very responsive to his request."

Creamer disagreed, and has turned to a sympathetic City Council, which is now drafting an ordinance that would say no to noise. The City Council will take up the issue on Feb. 1.

Creamer is not alone in his point of view. Thirty year resident Tim Enloe, who was raised and still resides one street over on Bethany road, support Creamer's efforts.

"Many of us attended various meetings with the Board of Education relaying multiple concerns including noise. This was before the school was even constructed and those seven families still had their homes. Our points fell on a deaf ear,the families were removed, and all the negatives that we predicted have become reality. It is time that this government entity had someone to answer to and I believe that someone is the Milton City Council."

Councilman Rick Mohrig said the ordinance will make reasonable allowances for school activities, but said residents need some protection.

"I think people expect a level of peace and quiet where they live and work, especially where they live," Mohrig said. "If people won't be considerate, their neighbors should have an option."

Milton's proposed noise law is based on one the city of Lilburn adopted in 2001. The ordinance differs from many others in that it doesn't set specific scientific limits for noise. Instead, it basically it says if a reasonable person with reasonable hearing can hear the noise inside his home, then it's too loud.

"Only chronic violators who refuse to respect the rights of others are issued citations," said Lilburn Public Safety Director John Davidson. "Usually, if you ask people to turn it down, they will."

He said even though the ordinance is based on such vague terms as "unreasonable noise" and "abnormally high," the ordinance hasn't been challenged in court. Mark Scott, the city's attorney, noted that laws based on noise meters can be challenged, too.

"It's difficult to keep decibel meters calibrated, and they are easily challenged on this basis," he said in an e-mail. "It is based on what a reasonable person would objectively perceive to be offensive. That is the standard that a court must apply."

The council is debating what exceptions should be allowed in order to accommodate things like celebrations, public gatherings and construction projects.

Council member Tina D'Aversa Williams said she favors some objective standard for measuring noise levels, and when and where higher levels of noise will be tolerated. She also would like the ordinance to be fairly limited in its exceptions.

"We can't leave everything to be subjective," she said. "But there are times when variances need to be granted."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Will Roswell or Milton get Ted's spread? And the castle?

By PAUL KAPLAN / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Published on: 01/23/07

One's a billionaire media magnate, the other's a retired truck driver.
One owns enough land to fill Rhode Island, the other has two acres near Roswell.

Man's castle is home: Rudy and Ruth McLaughlin live in this miniature castle, but they don't know whether it will have a Roswell or a Milton address. The McLaughlins, who are known for their abode, and Ted Turner (known for other things) get to decide on towns.

But Ted Turner and Rudy McLaughlin have two things in common: Both are eccentric, and neither has decided whether to be annexed into Roswell or the new city of Milton.
Their properties are part of a three-mile strip that's one of the last pieces of land not gobbled up in north Fulton. That strip was omitted from Milton's boundary because residents there hadn't decided between the new city and Roswell.

Now all of those several hundred landowners have picked sides — except for Turner, who's known to do things his own way, and McLaughlin, who wouldn't be known at all if he hadn't decided to make his home a castle — a real one.Turner's property is the big prize for the cities. It's a densely wooded 114-acre spread tucked along a quiet back road.

Both cities have made pitches to Turner's representatives, but the CNN founder and former Atlanta Braves owner hasn't responded. Turner owns nearly 2 million acres, mostly in Montana and New Mexico, so a "little" slice of Georgia might not be high on his to-do list. Turner's reps did not return repeated phone calls for this article.

The new layer of municipal taxes that will come due when he joins either city should not be a factor for Turner, said Karen Thurman, a Milton councilwoman.
"It doesn't matter to him if his taxes go up a thousand dollars, or two thousand," she said. "It's pocket change to him."But not to Rudy and Ruth McLaughlin.
"I don't want to go in either city," Ruth McLaughlin said. "Cities don't do nothing for you except send you a tax notice."

Both suburban cities boast good schools, recreation areas and neighborhoods, so making a choice may just come down to whether a resident feels attached to 150-year-old Roswell or the upstart Milton, created last year from part of unincorporated north Fulton County.

Thirty years ago, the McLaughlins built their dream home on two unincorporated acres at the intersection of Arnold Mill and Cagle roads. Rudy McLaughlin's ancestors had a castle in Scotland in the 1600s, but he couldn't afford his own on a trucker's salary. So the McLaughlins built a miniature castle. It's 1,700 square feet of stone, surrounded by a miniature moat and traversable only via miniature drawbridges.

Their home has been one of the most gawked-at structures for a generation of Northsiders.
Folks stop and take pictures of the place every day, said Ruth McLaughlin, a cheerful sort who's 75 years into a deep Southern accent. And if she happens to be outside, they'll pepper her with questions about her little castle in the suburbs.

What do they ask? "Same things you're askin'," she said. There's no deadline for the McLaughlins or Turner to make a choice about which city they want to belong to. But if they can't decide in the next few months, Roswell and Milton will hammer out a deal to see who goes where.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Milton County

Creative Loafing just published a short and interesting article about Milton County. Of course it is from the view of Atlanta. Read the comments to see how the regular Atlanta readers feel about Milton pulling its tax revenue out of the city.
Milton County article