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4 takeaways from a retreat where Flowery Branch leaders wrestled with city’s growth
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The Flowery Branch City Council hold a retreat meeting March 26, 2021. - photo by Scott Rogers

Growth dominated discussion at the Flowery Branch City Council’s annual retreat Friday as the city heard from officials on such topics as staffing needs and a long-range development plan.

Here are a few takeaways from the March 26 meeting at City Hall.

Police department needs ‘to have some help’

To keep up with growth, Police Chief David Spillers said his department needs more people and equipment.

The bulk of the estimated $571,219 in expenses was $389,219 for five new officers and an investigator.

“I’m pleading with you. I’ve got to have more help,” Spillers said. “I’m trying to solve problems but can’t do it with half of a baseball team.”

The chief said he wasn’t “blaming” elected officials for the slew of housing developments springing up around the city but that ensuring public safety of new residents is becoming more challenging.

“The mere opening of a construction site attracts criminals,” Spillers said.

New sewer plant work could start later in year

Construction could begin later this year on a new sewer treatment plant, the centerpiece of some $28 million in planned water and sewer improvements.

City Manager Bill Andrew said the city could begin seeking construction bids in 45 days and that by June or July, the city could have selected a contractor.

The $23 million project is expected to take about 18 months to complete, so the new plant would likely open in 2023, said Jimmy Dean, the city’s water/wastewater director.

Dean also talked about the need for two more plant operators, costing the city about $102,000, to keep up with current demand.

Other infrastructure work is planned, including improvements to the existing well system and water line improvements and extensions. 

Future growth isn’t just taking down trees

Scenery around the town is quickly changing as developers take down trees for new houses and industry, but the city’s future land-use plan does call for “conservation” efforts.

The city’s proposed Comprehensive Plan 2041, set to be presented in a virtual meeting on Thursday, April 1, aims to “protect open space and environmentally sensitive areas for recreation and conservation purposes.”

Consultant Paige Hatley of Hatley Plans LLC said the plan addresses “open space” in all zoning categories and that it would update requirements for green areas around trail segments. City officials talked about creating a bicycle/pedestrian trail in parts of the city.

Removing I-985 widening as project was a ‘curveball’

Georgia Department of Transportation plans to shelve the widening of Interstate 985 in South Hall will likely change how elected officials regard future development in that area, Councilman Joe Anglin said.

“The state threw us a big, big curveball” with that recent announcement, he said. “We were thinking that, with some of the (developments) we’ve approved, we were going to widen underneath I-985 … and now that’s off the radar.”

The area around Exit 12, where Spout Springs Road becomes Phil Niekro Boulevard, “is kind of the centerpoint for the city,” Anglin said. “That’s the focal point — that’s where people will try to get to. That’s got to be part of the conversation. What’s that (area) going to look like in the next 3-5 years?”