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Flowery Branch's downtown revitalization project is still on
Development still needs approval from City Council
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The Flowery Branch Historic Preservation Commission approved plans for a $15 million mixed-use development Wednesday that seeks to revitalize the city’s historic downtown.

The commission’s approval is the first step in the process toward constructing the commercial and residential venture Hortman and Dobbs Developers LLC are planning to build.

Hortman and Dobbs Developers, owned by Flowery Branch residents Marty Hortman and Kellin Dobbs, is planning a 2.5-acre, mixed-use development, dubbed Old Town Flowery Branch. The project is slated to be built in the three blocks adjacent to Main Street along Pine, Chestnut and Church streets and Railroad Avenue.

Dobbs has said that he hopes to begin construction on the project by October.

James Riker, Flowery Branch planning and zoning director, said the commission’s approval granted the developers a certificate of appropriateness. The certificate acknowledges the commission’s support of the architectural plans for Old Town Flowery Branch, which developers said will replicate the style of an old brick mill.

Riker said the development plans will go before the City Council for approval in upcoming weeks, and public hearings on the rezoning for the development will likely be held in early summer.

Flowery Branch also released its first budget draft today for the upcoming fiscal year that proposes a nearly $3 million budget.

Diane Hirling, mayor of Flowery Branch, said the city is in an adequate financial state for the upcoming fiscal year that runs until July 2009, but taxes could be raised and employees laid off next year if the housing market continues to decline.

Although revenues for the city’s general fund are up 5.7 percent from last year, the city might have to borrow funds from its emergency and reserve account to offset the revenue lost due to the housing market downturn.

Bill Andrew, Flowery Branch city manager, said the city is planning to transfer about $310,000 from its reserve fund to the general fund to support city operations for fiscal year 2009.

"There’s not enough revenue coming in from our general sources of revenue, particularly licensing with Stonebridge Village, and there’s been fewer housing starts and less permit revenues," Andrew said.

With about $1,149,800 in the city’s reserve fund, Andrew said the city council could comfortably authorize $310,000 to be withdrawn from that account and deposited into the general fund to make ends meet until the next fiscal year.

"Everything is going up in cost," Hirling said. "Our biggest concern is our water and sewer rates not being high enough to accommodate the growth in services for the city."

Hirling said at this point, the projected revenue for the city’s general fund should cover expected expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year, but generating enough revenue to finance operational costs for the city’s sewer treatment plant is a problem.

Andrew said a study has already been conducted on how much city sewer and water rates might be raised. He said the city council has yet to set a new rate.

The study suggested the city raise its base rate from 2,500 gallons to 4,500 gallons, meaning that city water and sewer customers will pay slightly more for more services before they are charged an incrementally increasing rate.

"We’re trying to bring in more revenue, but we’re also trying to return more value to customers," Andrew said.

City Council and staff also proposed multiple projects Wednesday that could receive about $2.5 million from county sales taxes. Andrew said the list of projects includes a $1.3 million lift station and force main line for Cinnamon Cove on Gaines Ferry Road and a request for $500,000 to purchase a site for a new city hall and community center.

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