A 46-page pamphlet of pictures and text spelling out the types of building designs, streetscape elements, landscaping and pedestrian components Roswell wants in the area around City Hall down to the river was approved by city council earlier this month.
The design guidelines are full of descriptive text specifying building forms and features for everything from townhouses to civic buildings and mixed residential and commercial uses as well as striking photos of existing properties elsewhere that represent the desired “look” for Groveway.
The overall aesthetic is sophisticated and urban but still quaint enough to be complementary to the nearby historic district.
It’s a good start, according to one elected official, but there is always room for improvement.
“We’re not done with the guidelines. We’ll continue to tweak and improve them and make them clearer to make that product the best we’re going to get,” said Councilwoman Nancy Diamond, council liaison for community development.
The Groveway Community’s new hybrid form-based zoning overlay calls for single family homes largely in the same area that those homes currently occupy. But the envisioned multi family and mixed-use buildings, including those with retail, office or commercial on the bottom and residential in the next two to four stories, evoke a newer, hipper vibe for a city that’s more than 175 years old.
Diamond said the apartments and townhomes are expected to attract singles of all ages as well as empty nesters.
“What I have heard from builders of luxury homes is that people they have sold to over the yeas who now want to downsize, but the right product isn’t there,” she said. “There’s a huge network of people who’d like less property to maintain but still want to be near Canton Street.”
Three stories are permitted in the Groveway district and four can be permitted with council approval, but realistically, Diamond said, the cost of amassing enough property for the taller buildings is likely to be prohibitive.
Councilman Kent Igleheart, who expressed concerns throughout the process of crafting the overlay zoning ordinance, said he ultimately voted for the design guidelines “because the ordinance went into effect the next day and we have to at least have some guidelines in place or we would face even bigger problems.”
The newly approved guidelines “are a big improvement to what was originally passed and there was a lot of good work put into them, particularly the new pictures that show clearly the types of things we are hoping for,” Igleheart said.
“Having said that, my concerns remain the same as they have always been. We won’t necessarily get what we want because there are so many openings for a bad developer to drive a truck through. Guidelines will be great for developers who want to do the right thing and having these guidelines being mandatory certainly helps.”
But Igleheart contends that much in the design documents is open to interpretation and some less scrupulous developers could take advantage of the ambiguity.
In Councilwoman Betty Price’s view, the guidelines give a predictability of approval for redevelopers and “will help prevent unnecessary hold-ups that could occur without clear guidelines in place.
“We certainly hope that with the huge number of eyes that have reviewed this over the past four years, there will be smooth sailing as new projects appear on the horizon. We look forward to leaving our children a community that is thriving and engaging, while retaining the elements that make Roswell unique and distinct.”