Revitalizing Flowery Branch’s Old Town area is key to the future of the South Hall city, according to residents who attended a meeting Tuesday about the city’s comprehensive plan.
Many of the nearly two dozen people at the meeting at the Flowery Branch Depot said freeing up retail space in Old Town would be a plus.
City Planner John McHenry said building managers there also would like to attract retail to bring shoppers to the Main Street area.
Resident Michael Duling said restaurants also can be a big draw.
McHenry noted “having Antebellum in town is great.” Antebellum is a fine dining establishment on Church Street in the downtown area.
But Duling and former City Councilman Ed Lezaj noted sidewalks are needed to better connect residents with dining options. Lezaj suggested asking developers to put in walkways.
Jennifer Reuter, who purchased residential property in Old Town with her husband after living in Flowery Branch’s large Sterling on the Lake subdivision, said they were drawn to Old Town but would like to be able to walk to the growler store and enjoy a craft beer. Currently, unlike other communities, consumption on the premises is not allowed.
Resident Clark Pickett also suggested better connectivity to Lake Lanier.
“I love being this close to the lake,” Pickett said. “It’s an asset.”
Lezaj also noted that building a new city hall on the hill where the public works building now stands may bring more vibrancy to the downtown area.
“I love the Old Town idea,” said Pickett, who acknowledged that unless the beauty of investments in Old Town are protected by design provisions for adjacent properties, the area could be like Turner Field, where no one wants to go because of what surrounds it.
Poor drainage in Old Town, however, is hindering the city from attracting the type of development envisioned. McHenry said a downtown drainage study is currently underway.
The comprehensive plan update is an eight-month process to provide a guide to managing the city’s growth. Flowery Branch has grown from 1,806 residents according to the 2000 census to 6,102 according to a 2014 census estimate.
Commenting that South Hall is in the process of building out, “there are still a lot of development opportunities in Flowery Branch,” McHenry said.
A planned Exit 14 on Interstate 985, on which construction is scheduled to start in 2017, will likely foster a lot of development.
Work on the comprehensive plan began in November and is being coordinated by planning services consultant Jerry Weitz, who wrote the city’s 2006 plan that was updated in 2011.
The council will receive a plan update at its 6 p.m. meeting Feb. 4. Another public meeting will convene at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Flowery Branch Depot, and another public hearing will be during the March 4 council meeting set for 6 p.m.
The first draft of the comprehensive plan is to be submitted to the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs by March 28, with the final plan to be ready for submission to DCA by mid-May. Once reviewed and accepted by DCA, the final plan would need to get formal council acceptance, planned for June 23.
McHenry urged those in attendance at Tuesday’s gathering to “please stay engaged.”