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Friday July 30th, 2021 7:24PM

Flowery Branch continues effort to control rapid growth

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

FLOWERY BRANCH – Plans for one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels in the Sterling on The Lake Subdivision have been withdrawn.

That was the announcement made Thursday evening during the Flowery Branch City Council work session just two weeks after applicant NNP-Looper Lake, LLC, submitted a rezoning request for 12-acres at the intersection of Capitola Farms and Spout Springs Roads.

The site is currently zoned for commercial and retail purposes, but after extensive and unsuccessful efforts to market the acreage to investors, the applicant said he wants to change course and use the site for residential construction.  A plan for doing so was presented to the city council on May 6th and council members had an opportunity to make comments on the plan.

Rich Atkinson, Flowery Branch Director of Planning and Community Development, told council members Thursday, “Staff was happy with the plan overall…we liked the design of it.”

But during the week, Atkinson explained, “I received a phone call from the applicant that they would like to withdraw this application at this time with the intent to go back and revisit, taking some of council’s suggestions and the issues you had with it…and try to resubmit.”

Atkinson said the applicant wanted two-three months to modify his plans, “…which is too long for us to table it by code…so they’ve asked to officially withdraw and then resubmit.”

Council members had expressed concern during the May 6th presentation over the appearance of the townhomes suggested for the site.  “Some people were afraid it kinda looked almost apartment-like from the street,” Atkinson explained.

The move to withdraw the application was approved unanimously.

FIRST READING OF TRAFFIC-SENSITIVE REZONING APPROVED

First reading of a request to rezone six adjacent parcels totaling 118-acres along Mulberry Street just north of I-985 passed on a split vote.  Councilwoman Leslie Jarchow was the lone dissenting vote.

The application seeks to rezone all six parcels from their current Light Industrial (M-1) designation to Multi-Family (R-3), allowing for the construction of 327-residential units planned in two separate phases.

Concern over the traffic generated by the project dominated the discussion.  The focus of the traffic concern was for an intersection roughly ¾-mile to the north, where all traffic on Mulberry Street empties onto Phil Niekro Boulevard near Atlanta Highway.

Those concerns caused the application to be tabled twice during past city council meetings, and for the application to be modified by the developer.

But now the developer, who is awaiting the city council’s decision on his rezoning application before purchasing the acreage, says he is running out of time.  Bill Stark, Jr., told city council, “Yes, we are running up against a deadline with the seller to close the property.”

Stark said he would be willing to make further density reductions to the site plan to minimize the traffic impact at the Mulberry Street/Phil Niekro intersection, but he needed to act as quickly as possible.

A traffic study requested by city council last month was completed by the applicant and the results were presented to the city council.  Traffic Engineer Clark Kennedy told council members, “According to the study…the traffic that will be generated from Phase One (189 units) does not adversely impact the intersection enough to make the applicant mitigate that; in Phase Two (138 units) it will.”

“They would not be allowed to construct Phase Two without mitigating the traffic impact,” Kennedy said. 

Kennedy added that the traffic study revealed that current status of the intersection needs immediate attention whether or not the proposed subdivision is built or not, and that concerned council members.

Councilman Ed Asbridge said despite the fact that the study claimed that the added traffic from Phase One would not worsen the current situation at that intersection, “We already have a traffic problem…it’s very plain.”

Mayor Mike Miller, a former middle school teacher, said, “I’m going to put it in the terms I would use with my sixth graders…’It ain’t good right now and this development is going to make it worser.’”

Despite those traffic concerns, and in order to allow the developer to make more changes without missing his financing requirements, council approved first reading in a split vote and said at the application’s second reading on June3rd all issues would need to be resolved.

The public is invited to attend that meeting at City Hall on June 3, 2021, beginning at 6:00 p.m.  Public comment is welcomed.

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