FLOWERY BRANCH — An uncertain economy doesn’t mean shutting off the crystal ball in Flowery Branch.
City officials foresee brighter days ahead — not that they’re too shabby now — and that growth eventually may explode.
To that end, Mayor Diane Hirling has sent a letter to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, seeking an increase in the city’s groundwater withdrawal to 700,000 gallons per day from 367,000.
The city now averages 218,000 gallons per day, said Jimmy Dean, the city’s water and sewer superintendent.
"We are anticipating at some point needing quite a bit more water just to serve our customer base," said City Manager Bill Andrew in an interview last week. "... We’re really just trying to plan ahead."
He looks around the city and sees plenty of developable space, including land between Gainesville Street and McEver Road that could accommodate about 270 homes, and acreage at McEver Road and Gainesville Street that would suit a grocery store.
A huge tract of land known as "Hall Creek Village" between Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Interstate 985, and off Phil Niekro Boulevard, has sat vacant for years.
However, the property "is anticipated to eventually have a million square feet of commercial development on it," Andrew said.
Plus, Dean said, the city has to factor in developments that have been approved.
The city has seen rapid growth off Spout Springs Road between I-985 and Hog Mountain Road, particularly from the opening of stores in the Stonebridge Village shopping center.
The 84-unit, five-story Hampton Inn & Suites is under construction on Holland Dam Road and could be open in November, hotel owner Yogesh Patel has said.
Construction is planned for Wachovia and SunTrust bank branches and a Walgreens pharmacy.
Flowery Branch City Council is set Wednesday to discuss two other potential developments in the area, one involving a possible future hotel/restaurant off
Holland Dam Road and the other involving a 60,000-square-foot office building and a 70,000-square-foot self-storage building.
All the city’s water comes from three wells. The city has total tank storage of 960,000 gallons, bumped to that amount by a new 750,000-gallon tank on Roberts Drive.
"Because we now have (this) storage capacity, it just makes sense to have the ability to withdraw more water per day," Andrew said.
"In case there is some catastrophic event, either a fire or rupture in a water main or whatever, this 700,000 gallons a day would allow us to refill the system that much quicker," he added.
Currently, if there was ever an emergency need for water, Flowery Branch has "a line that ties into the (Gainesville) water system," Andrew said. "We have an agreement with (the city) to open that valve."
"Beyond the volume of water, we also eventually (need) to upgrade the system, provide more water and more pressure for fire protection," he said.
Andrew noted that a study of the city’s water system recommended $910,000 in improvements, including a storage tank.
At one time, the city had a planned 270-home development on the edge of town that would have generated enough revenue to pay for the work.
"When the housing market fell out, that $910,000 fell out with it," Andrew said in an earlier interview.
He and Dean expect that EPD approval of the permit could come in six months.
When it comes to growth, the crystal ball is a little bit foggier.
"Obviously, with the economy the way it is, it’s difficult to say what’s going to happen," Andrew said.