MILTON, Ga. — The Milton City Council had its eyes to the future at its Feb. 8 work session as priorities were outlined for the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan, a blueprint in the works that will outline goals and development over the decades ahead.
The city recently formed a Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, which has outlined priorities for the document, along with comments gathered from residents.
Unsurprisingly, development and land use top the list.
“Land use is paramount,” committee chair Todd Chernik told the council.
As Milton’s appeal to residential buyers and developers has grown, Chernik said the comprehensive plan should not include any sewer service beyond the city’s current commercial areas.
Another strategy included in the plan will be to continue encouraging developers to subdivide larger lot sizes. In 2018, the city began drawing up certain concessions it would make if a builder chose to have a minimum of 3-acre lots in a development. Bob Buscemi, the city’s architect and interim Community Development director, said those incentives “are working” to sway developers.
Buscemi said Milton achieves its rural aesthetic with its subdivisions separated by larger residential tracts, but some developments can appear dense even if they adhere to 1-acre lot size minimums.
One strategy to address the issue would be for the city to increase minimum widths for a lot size from 100 to 150 feet to cut down on narrow, “dense-looking” developments.
Another consideration is flag lots, where narrow road frontage is provided by a thin strip of land that connects the frontage with the buildable portion of the lot. Buscemi said flag lots can fill in the “checkerboard” of subdivisions and larger lots, creating a denser appearance.
Chernik said the comprehensive plan will also address encouraging working farms in the city through ordinances or incentives.
Commercial development will also be under the city’s microscope.
The city’s consultants outlined that developers are evolving from strip centers or campus office buildings to mixed-use, and the next area for consideration is Deerfield Parkway.
Councilwoman Laura Bentley said the city’s Unified Development Code supports redeveloping some of Deerfield’s commercial properties that are “in decline.” She said the city must continue working with those property owners to redevelop into mixed-use.
“What we need guidance on from the CPAC and the community is, in our limited commercial areas, are we willing to use some of the Deerfield area to make these ‘live, work, play’ mixed-use (developments)?” Bentley said.
Councilman Rick Mohrig said the city would need to be “really prudent” in how it approaches mixed-use, because some concepts might be appropriate in one area and not another.
Buscemi suggested the comprehensive plan also address parking for developments — specifically, encouraging developers to include structured parking into their designs.
“By having developers integrate [parking] into their plans, they are camouflaging it internally around all the buildings,” Buscemi said.
With land values so steep in Milton, structured parking is warranted, Buscemi said, but that comes with the challenge of developers willing to lose out on commercial space on their properties.
Chernik said another issue that has arisen from the committee’s discussion is land acquisition. Priorities include land for active parks, public venues like an amphitheater or arts center and additional greenspace and trails to supplement Milton’s $25 million Greenspace Bond.
The city has shown interest in expanding its number of active park spaces, but the appetite for more greenspace continues, Bentley said. She suggested the committee research a combined active/passive park bond.
Moore said the city needs to act soon if it wants to buy more land, because prices “are only going up.”
“And the things we might be targeting for active or passive parks are going to be the same large tracts of land the development community is looking at today as popular as Milton has become for development,” Moore said. “So, we need to take a hard look on the timeline of those things, too.”
Chernik outlined other topics the committee has discussed, including road improvements and safety, branding and marketing the city’s commercial areas and sustainability initiatives like a Milton recycling center.
The committee will continue to draft the comprehensive plan and is expected to bring a concept back to the council in April.
Meanwhile, Milton has launched virtual education sessions on the comprehensive plan and some of the areas it will address. On Feb. 18, a presentation will be given on the city’s sustainability efforts.