Tucker moves forward on town green and economic development planL to R Councilmember Alexis Weaver, Councilmember Cara Schroeder, Mayor Frank Auman, Councilmember Anne Lerner, Councilmember Noelle Monferdini, and Councilmember Virginia Rece. Photo by Sara Amis
Tucker, GA — The city of Tucker hired KB Advisory Group last August to create an economic development strategic plan as called for in the city’s comprehensive plan.
KB Advisory offered the first overarching draft recommendations based on community data and a series of public input meetings at the city council’s work session Feb. 27.
Consultants Gabrielle Oliviero and Tate Davis said that the primary industries that KB Advisory considered in Tucker are professional services, manufacturing, and healthcare. Davis said that there are more jobs in manufacturing and healthcare in the area than there are people to fill them, which provides an opportunity to create a workforce development program.
Davis also said that Tucker has a broad variety of small businesses whose interests should be kept in mind as well.
Principal Consultant Molly McKay of Willdan Financial Services said that in addition to approaches like tax incentives such as the one that Tucker’s Downtown Development Authority is able to provide, some changes to Tucker’s economic development department would be beneficial. McKay recommended project managing software that would allow for more complex planning than an Excel spreadsheet and a formalized business retention and expansion program within Tucker’s economic development department.
McKay said that visibility marketing along the lines of existing events like Restaurant Week and Small Business Day will help build relationships that will benefit future development plans.
McKay also recommended engaging in business and developer programming through expanding relationships with county and regional agencies and businesses. McKay suggested sharing information about Tucker with “lunch and learn” type events.
KB Advisory Group President Geoff Koski said that they would bring a more fully developed plan to the city council’s regular meeting in March.
In other city council buinsess:
— At a special called meeting that preceded the work session, the council unanimously approved a contract with Barge Design Solutions to complete the construction document and bid phase for Tucker’s planned town green. This construction document will be based on the master plan approved by the council on Jan 23. The contract total is $492,000.
Director of Parks and Recreation Rip Robertson said that the town green was envisioned as a location for festivals and events, as well as regular daily use.
“This park is being developed as the hub of downtown,” said Robertson.
In response to a question from Mayor Frank Auman, Vice President Steve Provost of Barge Designs said that flexibility and regular check-ins with the city council are built into the design process, to limit the possibility of expensive changes of direction.
— The council also voted 6 to 1 during the special called meeting to approve a new phase of renovation of Fitzgerald Park that will include improvements to fields, infrastructure, lighting, a video and sound board, parking, and facilities. Councilmember Alexis Weaver, the lone no vote, expressed a desire to discuss the plan and the contract further. Robertson said that the only new facility that will be added is a replacement for an existing dilapidated concession stand that will be removed from the stream buffer.
Keck & Wood Collaboration by Design will develop the construction documents and bid packet for the upgrades, for a contracted price not to exceed $102,000.
— The council awarded a contract to update Tucker’s comprehensive plan and enacted a temporary emergency moratorium on certain types of applications for a section of Lawrenceville Highway.
Updates to the city’s comprehensive plan are required by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs every five years. The council awarded the contract to Sizemore Group in the amount of $115,600.
The first public hearing on the updates will be held in late March, followed by a series of community meetings and public hearings with the goal of adopting the updated plan in late summer.
The temporary emergency moratorium applies to specified parcels along Lawrenceville Highway between Cooledge Road and Brockett Road, and will last until September 26, 2023.
The city awarded a contract to Pond for the creation of a new zoning code for this portion of Lawrenceville Highway on Feb. 13, and the moratorium will allow time to draft the code amendments and initiate rezoning.
Councilmember Noelle Monferdini expressed concern that the moratorium would be perceived as a preemptive rejection of certain types of businesses before the city receives community feedback on rezoning.
Councilmember Anne Lerner said that she felt that the fact that the council doesn’t yet know what they want to do is all the more reason to impose a moratorium while they decide.
Community Development Director Courtney Smith said that any existing businesses or uses would be grandfathered in, and the moratorium would only apply to new building permits, variances, special land use permits, rezoning, and land disturbance permits.
The temporary moratorium would only apply to properties currently zoned M (Light Industrial), M-2 (Heavy Industrial), C-1 (Local Commercial), C-2 (General Commercial), and MZ (Multiple Zoning) that front Lawrenceville Highway between the intersection of Cooledge Road and Northlake Parkway at Lawrenceville Highway and the intersection of Lawrenceville Highway and Brockett Road.
— Edens Davis of Connect South gave a legislative report to the council about two bills in the Georgia legislature that will affect local government control over zoning. House Bill 514 would impose a 6-month limit on zoning moratoriums, while HB 517 would prohibit any kind of design standard including minimum lot sizes or building sizes, ostensibly to facilitate construction of more workforce housing.
Davis said that the bill is supported by a coalition of realtors and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and that some Democratic legislators who have not supported similar bills in the past have been convinced to do so as a way to encourage more affordable housing. The Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia oppose it.
“Like with most things I think there’s been some abuse by local governments on some of these topics, and this is the state reacting to that, or attempting to react to that, and ending up taking a sledgehammer to 530 cities which are widely various in their size and their shape and their interests and types of housing and all the rest,” said Auman.
Davis said that he thought that was correct, and because many parts of the state that are rural do not have zoning at all, their representatives did not see a problem with the legislation.
Weaver asked if there was anything in the bill which required quality standards.
Davis said that it seemed aimed at making construction less costly, but didn’t appear to hold developers to any particular standards beyond those set by the Department of Community Affairs, and severely limited the ability of local governments to set their own standards.
“So, it would allow for the creation of slums or things that might look like slums under the guise of affordability, but the city wouldn’t have any control over it,” said Weaver.
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