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June 11, 2013ROSWELL, Ga. – Plans for a new development on Webb Street stirred up several Roswell citizens at the June 10 council meeting. Council voted unanimously to extend the Historic Roswell boundaries to include three lots on the north side of the dead end road – Council member Becky Wynn was absent.
Lehigh Homes, the developer, plans to build six single family homes and 10 townhouses on the newly rezoned land. The family-owned company also built Providence in Historic Roswell, a gated community off Webb and Canton Street.
This rezoning is the first change to the historic district map since its inception in 1989. And it came with a few growing pains.
Roswell-resident Mildred Blake's house sits on the south side of Webb – across the street from Lehigh's anticipated new homes. Her daughters, Evelyn and Sandra, were present at the council meeting to echo their mother's disapproval of the rezoning.
"There's an abundance of legacy, heritage, pride and dignity attached to this land," Sandra Blake said at the meeting. "Making the area historical and building million dollar homes could cause some to not be able to afford the property tax."
Webb Street sits like a peninsula surrounded by historic Roswell. When the historic district was mapped, the residents of Webb did not want to be included. Thus, the boundaries were drawn around the street, according to council.
Roswell controls about 15 percent of the property taxes in Fulton County and has no control over Fulton County's school board taxes or Fulton County taxes, according to Mayor Jere Wood.
"If this city's goal is to reduce property tax by depressing property values, I think that's a self-defeating strategy," said Wood. "It has been my plan to improve property values. It's an unfortunate by-product that property tax goes up."
A second issue arose due to the potentially increased traffic with a new development.
There has not been any traffic analysis by the city of the street, said Steve Acenbrak, director of transportation. But "it's a very constricted area and not suited for heavy fire apparatus," he continued. "Before, with very little traffic, that was just fine. Now there's a potential for us to take a harder look at the traffic and looking at parking restrictions and that sort of thing.
"We're looking at options now," he said. "And these options don't necessarily coincide with a new development. Webb Street is getting abused as Canton Street becomes more popular."
According to Acenbrak, as long as there aren't any cars parked along the road, the fire department can get their trucks through.
The Blake family's concern is the city will determine they need to widen the road. To widen it, the city will potentially need some of the Blake's property.
"Ultimately, they are going to take some of my mother's land," Sandra Blake said. "With the road being substandard, it's already not good. They should have fixed it a long time ago."
Brendan Walsh, the spokesman for Lehigh Homes, said his company does not plan on shrinking the street or have future residents line the road with cars.
"If we add parking it would be coming onto our property," he continued. "We aren't making it any smaller and if we make it wider, it's coming on our land. We want to keep the heritage of Webb Street back there."
The council's decision Monday night had no bearing in eminent domain or seizure of property. But, as Council member Kent Igleheart said, those issues might be later down the road but this council doesn't want to set the stage now to where a future council will have to make that decision later on.
A historical rezoning cleans up a zoning laundry list of the three lots. The land was a mixture of different residential and historical zoning. The new and unified historical zoning doesn't add any additional density to the lots.
ALSO AT THE MEETING
Council voted to approve a new park for the ILM Academy of 1200 Grimes Bridge Road. The school will tear up additional parking spaces to put in the park. Council voted 4-1 with Councilmember Betty Price dissenting. Price cited noise issues with the park adjacent to an office complex.
Several new parking lots will receive makeovers in Roswell. Seventeen designated government lots will be restriped and patched up. The council approved Blount Construction to repave the parking lots. The contract is about $277,400. It passed 4-1 with Price dissenting. She said she would rather defer this item for more investigation to make sure the city is actually attending to the places with the greatest need.
The city also will receive a local maintenance and improvement grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The fund is about $573,350. Council voted unanimously to accept the grant.