ROSWELL, Ga. — The Roswell City Council voted to tighten restrictions on mixed-use developers and hold their feet to the fire when it comes to following through on promises made.
The text amendment to the city’s unified development code establishes a phasing system by which developers will have to meet benchmarks for residential and non-residential projects in order to proceed further.
Councilman Mike Palermo said the action was spurred, in part, by the Sun Valley Development approved in 2017. In that instance, the City Council voted 4-2 for conditional uses on an 18-acre property at the corner of Alpharetta Highway and Sun Valley that would allow for both a fourth story and multifamily use. The developer, Fuqua Development, said the site would include a grocery store, office, retail, restaurant space and up to 300 apartment units.
All the city got, Palermo said, was the apartments.
“I think that’s something I believe we, as a council, have to make sure doesn’t happen again,” Palermo said, adding that developers must be held accountable for what they present to the council and the public for approval.
Palermo said the city already has language holding developers to the site plans they propose, but the new language will close some of the loopholes builders have used to deliver on only one element of a proposed mixed-use plan.
Mayor Lori Henry said she had asked planning and zoning staff to scour the country for ideas on how Roswell may secure a better process to ensure mixed-use projects approved by the city are carried out properly. She said the text amendment was crafted with direct input from the Planning Commission, and it reflects ideas garnered from all corners of those charged with guiding the city’s growth.
“That collaborative effort, I think, between them, staff and council brought us to a much better resolution,” Henry said.
The mayor also advocated for additional joint sessions with the Planning Commission and City Council on matters related to planning and zoning.
The proposal garnered broad support among council members.
Councilman Matt Judy said he thinks the new, staged process is a good idea, and the language will change further before it is finalized and then implemented.
Councilman Marcelo Zapata called it an important first step in mitigating the problem of developers “misleading the public with a project that looks beautiful and then is not done as presented to the public and the people of Roswell.”
The text amendment now goes before the Planning Commission for its review, then will return to the City Council for adoption in the form of a resolution.
The measure continues an accelerated trend on the City Council over the past six years to tighten restrictions on high density residential construction in Roswell.
Along those lines, at the same July 12 meeting, the council also passed a text amendment to the unified development code that changes townhomes from a permissible use to a conditional use within areas zoned as a commercial corridor.