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2013 brought end of tolls, beginning of new development
by Rachel Kellogg
December 30, 2013 12:51 PM | 3342 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alpharetta city officials broke ground on the much anticipated Alpharetta City Center this past April.
Alpharetta city officials broke ground on the much anticipated Alpharetta City Center this past April.
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Special Photo /  Milton Police Dept. Retired K-9 officer DaSilva, shown with his handler, former Milton Police Department Officer Brian Kiel, used to assist the police department.
Special Photo / Milton Police Dept. Retired K-9 officer DaSilva, shown with his handler, former Milton Police Department Officer Brian Kiel, used to assist the police department.
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Staff / Erin Gray.Roswell Rotary announced lat January that former Rotary President Bob Hagan will be the Rotary Club's District Governor for 2015-2016 term.
Staff / Erin Gray.Roswell Rotary announced lat January that former Rotary President Bob Hagan will be the Rotary Club's District Governor for 2015-2016 term.
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“Development” was the keyword in north Fulton in 2013. From the development code in Roswell to the array of projects undergoing construction in Alpharetta, groundbreakings took place all over the area. Here’s a look at some of the past year’s biggest news stories to happen north of the Chattahoochee.

Cracking The Code

Future development in Roswell, particularly with regards to the Unified Development Code, has been a hot topic in the city this past year. According to Roswell’s city website, the 2030 Comprehensive plan “calls for revitalizing areas in decline, providing additional housing options and reconciling conflicting rules to attract quality projects.” To do this, certain planning and zoning ordinance issues needed to be addressed — thus, the UDC was born. The UDC will address contemporary development and zoning practices in a format that is consistent and easily understood by administrators, developers and community members.

The UDC began in 2012 and the anticipated effective date of the project is March 11.

The proposed plan has been a source of much debate in the city with some Roswellians hoping for very little new development and some wanting to see Roswell expand.

Though the UDC has brought on concerns about density and building heights, the city is still in the information-gathering stage of the project.

In August, members of Roswell’s Historic Preservation Commission said they felt bewildered about where they fit in to the city’s renewed emphasis on redevelopment.

Before the code is solidified, the commission needs “the big picture” from council, “what you want the historic district to look like,” commission member Richard Halberg said.

The code is “going to bring some things to us with a lot of details missing,” Halberg said.

Roswell Mayor Jere Wood urged commission members to share with council and staff the areas in the new code in which they would like to see more specifics.

“This is not a closed book. We’re now at the point where we are working out details and we need your input,” he told the commission.

Radio Rebels

In January, the city of Johns Creek opted not to join the five other north Fulton cities in a plan to form a shared emergency radio system. When Alpharetta approved the $16 million agreement in December 2012, its officials were under the impression Johns Creek would be signing, along with Milton, Sandy Springs, Roswell and Mountain Park.

Until 2013, the cities’ emergency and public safety radios have been tied to the Fulton County trunk, an analog system built in the 1990s.

According to Alpharetta officials, the system has been problematic for several years due to its incompatibility with surrounding digital systems, increasing instability, discontinuation of manufacturer support and a high usage fee charged by Fulton County.

Toll Free Ride

To the delight of many, the fees at the Ga. 400 toll plaza ended in November. Gov. Nathan Deal announced in mid-2012 that the tolls would be removed, but drivers in the metro area have been expecting the change since the tolls were erected in 1993.

Voters back then approved the Ga. 400 toll under the condition that it would be removed 20 years later. The State Road and Tollway Authority initially wanted to extend the toll fees another 10 years, but the governor said “no deal.” The tollway authority will no longer see the $20 million that the tolls produced annually.

New connector ramps connecting I-85 southbound to Ga. 400 northbound and Ga. 400 southbound to I-85 northbound will be completed by the middle of January.

It’s on at Avalon

The “mud pit” on Old Milton Parkway, formerly known as Prospect Park, is now shaping up to be the development Alpharettans had hoped for. The $600 million mixed-use project is now 90 percent pre-leased with just under one year to go until its Oct. 30 grand opening.

North American Properties Atlanta broke ground on the project in January 2013, at which time Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle said it will be a symbol of all that is “exceptional” about Alpharetta.

“For so long, this property was a symbol of failure … of downed economic trends,” he said. “Now it’s time … to make future plans.” The land sat unmoved for nearly six years when it was slated for another multi-use project, Prospect Park. After erecting only a parking structure, the project was canned shortly after the developers filed for bankruptcy. But then North American Properties Atlanta, headed by managing partner Mark Toro, acquired the property and began to make big plans for its future.

Now Avalon is one of the largest projects under construction in the U.S. and it will a place where specialty retail, entertainment, restaurants, residences, offices, hotels and public spaces come together.

Sacred Ground

More than three years after submitting their initial application to the city of Alpharetta, members of the Islamic Center of North Fulton are getting their new buildings. Thanks to a September city council approval, the 2,500 square-foot mosque on Rucker Road will be transformed into a 7,900 square-foot worship and activity center.

In May 2010, city council voted against the expansion based on an agreement the mosque had, reportedly, made in 1998 with surrounding neighborhoods to not try to expand. Residents were concerned that the center would cause an increase in traffic and will cause noise and light pollution.

The city offered to help the center find a suitable property for its expansion, but Islamic law says once a place of prayer and worship has been established, it cannot move.

After the denial, the mosque’s representatives filed a lawsuit against the city, saying they had been “unreasonably” limited and discriminated against based on their religion.

But after several court rulings and appeals, it was decided on the federal level that the city must consider the project again. A condition added to the approved expansion says the center cannot expand its square footage again for 15 years.

Front and Center

In April, construction began on the long-awaited City Center development in Alpharetta. The $31 million project is well on its way to becoming a reality, after years of being just a hoped-for concept.

The city plans to complete the civic components of the development in August. This will include a new 50,000-square-foot city hall, a town plaza, a five-acre park, a 450-space structured parking facility and connecting avenues and sidewalks. Later in 2014, Fulton County plans to open a new public library on the three-acre site the city donated for that purpose. The city approved the transfer of that chunk of land last month. Construction on the site has been ongoing since the spring and visible progress is being made each passing week. Aerial-view photos of construction from December are available at www.alpharetta.ga.us.

In The Line of Duty

In April, Alpharetta police officer David Freeman sustained several gunshot wounds after pulling over a black Isuzu truck near 221 S. Main St. According to police officials, Freeman stopped the suspected shooter, Marietta resident Curtis Hicks, 52, for a tag violation, but Hicks opened fire, wounding Freeman, and drove south toward Roswell.

When Freeman called for backup, officers from Alpharetta and Roswell chased Hicks down Ga. 400.

During the chase, Hicks opened fire on police vehicles striking patrol cars, officials said. Hicks eventually wrecked his car on Ga. 400, and when officers approached him, he continued firing his gun. The police returned fire, killing Hicks. Freeman was rushed to North Fulton Hospital and began recovering.

Other Top Stories of 2013:

The Republican-controlled House and Senate, during its 40-day session in the winter and spring, approved most of the bills to reform the Fulton County government, led by a Democratic-majority board of commissioners.

Following the 2012 elections, when allegations ranging from failing to mail or accept the proper absentee ballots to inadequately instructing and equipping poll workers, the Fulton County Elections and Registration Division was investigated by the State Elections Board.

In May, North Point Mall shoppers were shocked when Alpharetta police had to evacuate the premises and restrict public entrance for several hours to investigate a bomb threat, which turned out to be a hoax. Police arrested 28-year-old Omari Glenn Ryden for allegedly issuing the threat and charged him with making terroristic threats, making a false alarm and making a false 911 report.

In the third quarter of 2013, the city of Milton began experiencing a boom in residential housing. There are about 900 new residential units planned to be built in 2014 — three times the housing compared to the 279 new residential units permitted in 2013.
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