by Jason Wright / www.northfulton.com / Appen Newspapers
May 06, 2008
MILTON -- Don't plan on seeing high rises overlooking the neighborhoods that dot Ga. 9 in Milton anytime soon.
After deferring the decision since October, City Council voted 5-1 (Councilman Bill Lusk had to leave early) to restrict the heights of buildings along Ga. 9 south of Webb Road to two stories and 30 feet. In addition, a new set of more stringent buffer restrictions -- which ensure single structures can't be built right next to each other -- were also passed.
Originally Milton's council passed a set of design guidelines for the Ga. 9 corridor in October, a major victory for area residents sick of seeing the piecemeal fashion in which construction has taken place along the important road. But they chose to defer the height and buffer restriction portions for fear setting limits to the area could interfere with future tax revenues and Atlanta Regional Commission and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority funding.
That cash could be used to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown area in the future. In short, Ga. 9 has been identified by ARC as a "mega corridor" for future growth. That means multi-story buildings and sustainable living/working communities.The plan was to conduct tax and revenue modeling as part of the ongoing Comprehensive Plan update, but such modeling is still two to three months away.Community Development Director Tom Wilson, who did not support the approval, said he wasn't exactly sure the consequences of restricting heights on a major commercial corridor."I can't say [it would affect revenues], but I suspect it might. Is that gray enough for you?" he asked.
Wilson also said cities are not told why grant monies don't come through in the end."It's quite likely we may never know if this may cost us or not."The important parts of the approval are twofold, said Councilwoman Tina D'Aversa. One is that the Ga. 9 guidelines exclude Deerfield Parkway and Morris Road, which are zoned for high-rise office buildings."I think we've got ample opportunities for these buildings,' said D'Aversa.
Another is that nothing binds council from allowing a taller building to come in on Ga. 9 if they want it.This point was important to Councilwoman Julie Zahner Bailey, a staunch opponent of tall buildings on Ga. 9."We're not restricted to just this height [barrier]," she said.
Mayor Joe Lockwood, who generally is centrist in his approach to city matters, seemed to be in the middle on the argument."I certainly don't want to see three-story buildings near neighborhoods," he said. "But I don't just want to see a flat line, either. Sometimes we can go up and see greenspace."Eventually, though, he was won over by the idea that council could go back and fix any unintended consequences.
The one dissenting vote was cast by Councilwoman Karen Thurman. An accountant by trade, she said she wasn't comfortable making any decisions that could cost the city in the long run."I need to know the financial consequences of decisions." she said.
In other business, council
•Deferred one rezoning on Webb Road and one zoning modification on Ga. 9 until more information could be provided about Milton's current sewer situation in the area. Among the points of contention was the revelation by City Attorney Angie Davis that she believes Fulton County's intergovernmental agreement on sewer with Milton does not cover the entire city – which could be a lynchpin of future zoning and rezoning cases."To do this justice we have to secure this information," said Councilman Bill Lusk.
•Approved a resolution to establish the citizens' participation group for the revision of the Milton Tree Preservation Ordinance.
•Approved a lease agreement for the continued use of the Hickory Flat fire station at Birmingham Crossroads.