MILTON, Ga. — The City Council discussed the opposite ends of Milton’s density at its May 13 work session with talks on expanding the economic footprint of the Deerfield Parkway area and the maintenance level of gravel roads.
The city has contracted RKG Associates to study economic development in the Deerfield area and how Milton can incentivize companies to move to move in.
According to the firm, Deerfield Parkway is Milton’s only viable area to capitalize on employment opportunities, and around 80 acres of commercially zoned parcels sit undeveloped.
Though around 85 percent of Milton is zoned residential — which requires more city services than commercial areas — the city has had no major issues in balancing its budget. Despite a small commercial tax base, however, council members said that expanding Deerfield’s commercial footprint could benefit future taxpayers.
A major step will be creating more jobs in Milton for residents and providing more housing near the commercial district. According to RKG, 95 percent of Milton residents work in other cities and 90 percent of the city’s workforce commutes from outside its borders.
The answer could be mixed-use developments.
If the city can incentivize a mixed-use development at Deerfield, it could build the area’s economic impact and address the city’s lack of diverse housing options, according to RKG. Developers generally include housing to offset the high costs of constructing commercial spaces in an area, and it is unlikely a developer would construct a building dedicated solely to office spaces until tenants are identified, the report said.
However, Milton’s zoning regulations have “likely curtailed the area’s competitiveness for destination mixed-use developments,” RKG’s presentation said.
In response, Mayor Joe Lockwood said Milton is “a different animal.”
“A lot of these communities have developed like this and it has spread out, but if you look around Milton, 85 percent is zoned agricultural or residentially zoned with low density,” Lockwood said. “I do view Deerfield as a crown jewel to do something with, but we also want to be careful it’s not a catalyst for us to become ‘any town U.S.A.’”
The study also stressed maintaining a healthy business climate for the current Deerfield firms by creating a consistency in the scale of development/amenities and providing walkability in the area.
RKG and the city will continue to study ways to increase Deerfield’s business base, and the firm will make another presentation to the council at a future meeting.
In other matters at the work session, the council turned its attention to Milton’s rural gravel roads.
As the city begins developing its 2020 budget, officials will need to determine how much funding will be dedicated for the upkeep of gravel roads.
Using the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating system, transportation engineer Sara Leaders said most of the city’s gravel roads are rated as “3” out of 5, with 5 being the best constructed and maintained.
The city maintains the roads four times a year with two part-time employees and equipment rented from Roswell.
If the city wants to increase its rating to “4”, which appeared to be the consensus of the council, it will need to dedicate more funding and create strategies to address maintenance issues.
“What we want to gauge from council is where on the ratings you want us to be,” said City Manager Steve Krokoff. “We’re currently at level 3 we believe, and if that is sufficient, we are putting in the appropriate amount of resources. If the city wants to bring this up to a level 4…it will require more equipment and resources.”
To increase the rating, Milton would use a maintenance schedule determined by weather instead of quarterly. Drainage areas would need to be constructed along the roadways, and the city would need to address runoff from paved driveways which can wash away the roads.
Councilman Joe Longoria said city staff needs to provide hard numbers on the cost of creating full-time positions and purchasing necessary equipment and conduct traffic counts before a decision should be given on increasing the city’s level of maintenance.
“While gravel roads are a minority as far as our roads, we have heard about them from citizens, so I would be interested in looking to upgrade, but I would like to have those numbers,” he said.