Source: NorthFulton.com

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Milton to see housing boom in 2014
Grapples with population, development growth

by Jonathan Copsey

December 23, 2013

MILTON, Ga. Anyone driving through Milton's back roads may have seen an unusual amount of building activity. According to the city, this construction will continue and expand in the coming year.

According to numbers provided by Kathleen Field, Milton's community development director, there are 896 new homes either under review, under construction or seeking rezoning.

Most of the properties seeking rezoning are along Milton's southern edge, especially Ga. 9

These numbers for new homes to be completed in 2014 are triple 2013's numbers. In all of this year, there were 279 residential permits given. That number is in itself nearly three times the number of permits given in 2010 (103).

With these new homes, the city expects the population to jump from 34,588 this year up to 37,008 next year, an increase of nearly 2,500 people.

"It's because of the depression we had," said Field. "There has been a pent-up demand."

People want to come to Milton, she said, and now they have the chance.

This should come as no surprise. Milton is frequently touted as a rural, restful community of horse farms and quiet country roads. It has one of the highest median home prices in the Atlanta area.

Milton was named "best quality of life" in Georgia and ninth highest in the Southeast by the Business Journals' On Numbers Survey.

"This kind of honor just fuels the desire of people wanting to move here, as we all have chosen to do so at some point," wrote Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood in a recent letter to the community.

However, the city cannot simply close its borders to all newcomers, nor can it forbid residents selling their land for new development.

The trick is finding a way to make sure the developments coming in conform to what Milton wants to be in the future. With all the open space replaced with single family homes, what happens to that "rural" feel that drew people in the first place?

Part of the problem, said Lockwood, was that properties that meet all the legal requirements do not have to go through the same public scrutiny or come before the City Council. If land is allowed to have 50 homes built on it, it can. And the builder does not need to tell his neighbors about it.

Field says there is an array of options to help mitigate the issues.

The city could require setbacks from the road to be increased, limiting the views of endless houses, replacing that view with trees and shrubs.

Conservation subdivisions are another option. Developers would set aside a portion of their land as green space. That green space could be required to be at the entrance of a neighborhood.

There are no conservation subdivisions in Milton.

The transfer of development rights is also an option. This gives developers the chance to trade density in one area of the city for another. Instead of building 60 homes on Birmingham Highway, they might be able to build apartments along Ga. 9, saving the rural parcel.

The issue with conservation subdivisions and the transfer of development rights options is they are voluntary. The city cannot force builders to use them.

Field said the city needs to find ways to better promote and encourage developers to use these options.