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Flowery Branch City Council hears update on downtown plans
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Council passed, with an amendment, an ordinance to compensate the mayor and council for additional public appearances and committee meetings, outside of required appearances.

The revised ordinance will allow the mayor and council members to receive a $50 per diem monthly, not to exceed 5 meetings a month. Mayor Mike Miller is paid a $500 salary and council members $400 each month.

Per diem would not extend to informal or internal meetings, and the ordinance was amended to create an effective date no earlier than July, 1, 2014, the beginning of a new fiscal year. Council members Damon Gibbs, Mary Jones and Tara Richards approved the move; Joe Anglin and Fred Richards voted against a per diem.

In public comment, former Flowery Branch council member Chris Fetterman expressed opposition to the ordinance that will mean an amendment to the city charter. He also announced his intention to qualify for candidacy for one of the council posts coming up for election in November 2014. Posts 3, 4, 5 are held by Fred Richards, Anglin and Tara Richards respectively.

Lisa Laskey

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect details regarding the per diem limits and posts up for election.

Flowery Branch City Council received its first status report by Pond & Co. on its marketing and redevelopment analysis for the city.

The study, expected to be completed and formally presented to council in November, will outline the architecture, engineering and planning firm’s findings on historic Flowery Branch’s current development and marketability and provide an action plan for future economic development.

The analysis focuses on the historic portion of the city and associated commercial properties lining Atlanta Highway adjacent to the historic district.

In November 2013, the Flowery Branch Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee approved funds to prepare a redevelopment plan for Old Town Flowery Branch and its Commercial Gateways Redevelopment area.

The redevelopment plan, budgeted at $95,000, will focus on Old Town, its economic viability, redevelopment, transportation and infrastructure.

It takes years for an area to be brought into line with a proposed vision, explained Joel Reed, a project manager for Pond & Co. But, Reed said, city officials and staff have been taking the necessary initial steps toward making their vision a reality.

Over the past seven years, the city has reconfigured and updated its master plan and completed initial streetscpe improvements, as well as assembling properties it considers a good investment. Work to update infrastructure, including sewer capacity, is also underway.

The boundaries of Old Town include the existing historic district bounded by Spout Springs and Lights Ferry roads, Gainesville Street and Atlanta Highway. A small number of additional properties are being considered.

City officials and staff have expressed the desire for the historic city to be pedestrian-friendly.

“We noticed right away the great assets you have,” said Reed, citing Flowery Branch’s proximity to Lake Lanier.

Lake visitors, according to Pond & Co. research analysts, spend between $150 and $250 million annually, 73 percent of which is on hard goods and services.

“We’re going to be looking at opportunities to enhance that,” he said.

Flowery Branch is also below the state average of rental properties to owner-occupied homes, said Reed.

“We’re seeing a huge growth in population,” he said. “We settled on the borders because they are a gateway,” said Reed. “Atlanta Highway is like a big front door for you.”

“In a perfect world,” City Manager Bill Andrew said in the spring, “new development would begin in a year-and-half,” with streets being funding by TAD and general funds.

There will be an Aug. 27 public workshop for citizens to hear the firm’s initial findings and provide comment on their own vision for the city.

The meeting will be at the historic train depot, on the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“Obviously, we want community support, community buy-in,” Reed said. A second public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 22 to announce the plan. In November, the final document will be sent to City Council, with action steps highlighted.

For those unable to attend the meetings, the city has a website with project updates and a short survey for citizens to provide their input.

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