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Flowery Branch makes decision on closing railroad crossing, tables water rate hike
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The Flowery Branch City Council unanimously approved the closing of a railroad crossing and a multimillion-dollar investment in the tax allocation district plan. The discussion on potential water and sewer rate changes, however, was tabled until the next meeting.

The council previously postponed the vote Nov. 1 on potentially closing the Chattahoochee Street railroad crossing. 

“Norfolk Southern has indicated it would take them about four or five days to effect that closing. They are wanting to try to employ the funds before the end of the calendar year,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.

Norfolk Southern’s manager grade crossing safety Will Miller said closing the crossing and installing a “lunar light” will not cost the city money.

Norfolk Southern would pay to install the light at Spring Street, which would reduce the need for trains to block the crossings at Spring Street and Lights Ferry Road.

Tax allocation district

The council voted unanimously in favor of the recommended $7.5 million investment over 20 years in three projects for the tax allocation district.

According to the city’s documents, the projects are expected to raise $767,000 per year in combined revenue for the city’s TAD fund when completed.

The projects would help offset a portion of the costs for demolition and new construction on the former city hall and police department buildings, which would have more than a dozen apartments and ground-level retail. 

Another project involves traffic signals and utility infrastructure for the 325 single-family detached homes on the Conner Property.

The third would create a multi-purpose field and other amenities for the Villages at East Main, a development boasting 63 townhomes and 31 single-family homes between East Main Street and Phil Niekro Boulevard. 

“The apartment development is within the tax allocation district, and they’ll create a value. What they’re asking is we use some of that value to build basically some more streetscape, a couple of parks, more parking here downtown,” Andrew previously said.

Two council members and Mayor Mike Miller are on the advisory committee and previously voted in favor.

Andrew said the first dispersal of funds would likely come in early spring.

Water and sewer rates

The council tabled the resolution on a potential 5 percent increase on water and sewer rates until the Dec. 6 meeting.

The recommendation on the increase came from Nelsnick Enterprises, a consulting firm working with the city as it assesses its capital improvement plan.

The rate changes would have taken effect Dec. 1. Andrew said they would determine the new effective date at the next meeting.

The city council raised the water and sewer rates by 4 percent last year, but there had been no increases since 2014. Bobby Sills, co-founder and planning solutions consultant at Nelsnick Enterprises, said the recommendation has been to review the rates each year.

“Part of our findings was the revenues generated by the water and wastewater customers were not sufficient to cover operations. You were actually borrowing from the reserve fund of the water and sewer account,” Sills said.

Nelsnick is recommending water and sewer rate increases over the next five years “based on infrastructure improvements needed in our system,” according to the city’s executive summary.

Nelsnick also recommended a $1,003 per equivalent dwelling unit on wastewater system development charges, which is a cost incurred for new developments.

The system development charge, also known as sewer capacity, only affects new business and is effectively a 64 percent increase.