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Property eyed for new Flowery Branch City Hall site
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Flowery Branch is looking to buy about 7 acres of downtown property for a future city government complex and park area.

The lots are at Gainesville and Main streets, overlooking the downtown area.

"The property on the hill, where the water tank is and all that, has been part of our comprehensive plan since 2005 for acquisition for a city hall and a kind of municipal complex," said City Manager Bill Andrew.

In pursuing the purchase, the city has eyed adjacent property that includes an old manufacturing building.

"We feel that looking at that property at this time, with the way the market is, we would be just taking advantage of the low market," Andrew said. "The city would work to remove those buildings and offer the property as a green (space)."

He likened clearing the site to an effort by Buford-based Hortman & Dobbs to remove an old building off Railroad Avenue as part of its planned Old Town Flowery Branch development.

The $15 million Old Town project involves commercial and residential construction in the downtown area. The first phase was to begin in July but has been stalled by the economic downturn.

Flowery Branch has talked to a landscape architect to sketch a possible design on the properties.

"What we want to have is ... a building that's large enough to house some people in a decent-size meeting room. We would like to have a drive-through (window) for bill pay," Andrew said.

"And we'd like to have something connecting to a park."

Plans are to pay for the properties using $95,000 in special purpose local option sales tax revenue, $119,000 in water and sewer money owed to the general fund and the remaining $49,000 or so from the general fund, Andrew said.

A financing plan for a new city hall hasn't been laid out.

"Basically, we're just taking advantage of a low point in the market to acquire some property," he said. "Frankly, part of financing (the construction project) would be us being able to sell off all we own on Main Street."

The city owns property on both sides of Main Street between Church Street and Railroad Avenue, including City Hall, the police department and two storefronts recently put under lease.

"At some point, we'd like to liquidate all that and have all that move over to commercial enterprise, and then we can tuck ourselves up on the hill," Andrew said.

Andrew will present a report on the matter to Flowery Branch City Council at its Thursday meeting, which is set to start at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

"We've been discussing this in executive session," he said. "... Theoretically, we could have gone ahead and closed (on the property), then gone in open session and announced all this.

"But the council and I felt that since we basically do have the property under contract, we wanted to make it public and explain what all we were doing ... before we actually do it."