On the verge of finishing a long-awaited sewer project, Flowery Branch is looking to what a more developed sewer system could mean for the South Hall County city.
For his part, Mayor Mike Miller said he hopes the city can start to flip sewer allocation numbers from 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial to 70 percent commercial and 30 percent residential.
“Our goal is to bring some properties into the city and get some of the properties already in the city developed … so that they bring jobs to the city,” he said.
Basically, the aim is to help fuel economic development, which will “help all of us in the long run,” Miller said.
Flowery Branch is close to finishing infrastructure key to those goals — a sewer line that runs from the Cinnamon Cove condominium complex on Gaines Ferry Road to the city’s treatment plant on Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway.
The line crosses McEver Road, a key traffic artery between Buford and Gainesville, and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
“All the lines are in and we’re finishing up pump stations,” said Jimmy Dean, the city’s sewer plant director.
The $2 million project should be finished by January, but possibly sooner, he said.
Flowery Branch is permitted to treat 1 million gallons of sewer per day but has the ability to dispose of 910,000 gallons, with 400,000 to Lake Lanier and 510,000 to a spray field off Thurmon Tanner Parkway at Ga. 13, City Manager Bill Andrew said.
By taking over the Cinnamon Cove plant, the city will be able to discharge more to the lake. Plans call for ending the spray field operation at some point and marketing the land for industrial uses.
Flowery Branch is far from its permit limit now, as the city’s average daily treatment is about 450,000 gallons of sewer, Dean said.
The city has made large leaps in development since his arrival in 1998, when the city’s flows were less than 200,000 gallons, he said.
The city has developed much over the years, particularly with commercial development off Spout Springs and Hog Mountain roads at Interstate 985 and residentially with Sterling on the Lake off Spout Springs.
Then, the recession hit, and development in Flowery Branch, like most communities, hit the brakes.
Still, the town has plenty of prime lots available, including land around I-985 and Thurmon Tanner. Areas around the new sewer line, such as along McEver and McEver at Gaines Ferry, also are drawing interest.
“We’ve got the growth coming,” Miller said. “Residents are moving from Gwinnett, and we’ve got businesses that are starting to relocate a little bit farther north — we see it up the I-85 corridor and some up the I-985 corridor.
“As they are looking for sites, we want stuff that’s ready to go. We don’t want a shovel-ready project. We want a done project.”
Miller said he wants to see Flowery Branch compete on a “more level playing field” with its Hall neighbors to the north, such as Oakwood and Gainesville.
Oakwood, which has city limits brushing Flowery Branch, is experiencing a growth renaissance of its own, with new businesses and other development taking place, particularly off Mundy Mill Road.
The city doesn’t operate a sewer system of its own, instead buying capacity from Gainesville and Flowery Branch. Oakwood also is about to get sewer through an agreement with bustling Braselton.
And on that note, Flowery Branch officials talked recently about the impact of losing sewer customers on Winder Highway once the Braselton-Oakwood arrangement starts next year.
A couple of options have arisen lately that might help fill that gap.
The city is looking at providing sewer to a planned 21-acre community for developmentally disabled adults off McEver and Radford roads.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to OK the proposal, which has drawn much opposition because of the complex’s high density compared to surrounding subdivisions with single-family homes.
Also, one of those neighborhoods in that area is considering adding 44 homes, Andrew said.
Supplying sewer to those areas “would certainly help plug the loss we’re going to be encountering next year” with Oakwood, he said. “... In some sense, it’s a philosophical question as to whether we want to grow areas outside the city with our sewer.”
Plus, “you have to think down the road,” Andrew said, adding that property near Sterling on the Lake accommodating up to 300 houses recently has stirred “discussion from some developers.”
Such conversation among city officials shows the tricky balance that Flowery Branch faces with its sewer availability today versus what may come in the years ahead, but Miller doesn’t believe the growth will slow or turn away from the town.
“There are a couple of key industrial properties … where we think it’s inevitable they’re going to develop,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”