MILTON, Ga. — Milton held three virtual public input sessions last week as it kicks off the initial stages of crafting its 2040 comprehensive plan and five-year strategic plan. The Zoom meetings gave residents a chance to tell city officials and planning consultants what they want for the city’s future.
Residents were given the opportunity to discuss their desires and speak with others with the prompt of what they would like to see the city accomplish over the next five years.
Also a part of the planning process, the city’s consultants interviewed 55 people described as a “broad range of residents, stakeholders, advocates and interests.”
The group included members of the LGBTQ community and several racial and ethnic groups, as well as seniors, those with special needs, farm and equestrian landowners, members of Milton’s volunteer boards and committees, homeless youth and business owners. City of Milton employees were also surveyed.
Responses from the stakeholder survey, public input sessions and an online survey for residents will be compiled to draft the five-year and 2040 plans.
Stakeholder survey respondents said the biggest challenges Milton faces in the years ahead are balancing growth with maintaining the city’s rural character and traffic issues. Those were also the top concerns among residents who responded in the 2019 National Community Survey for Milton.
The demand for services versus tax revenue, safety and security, parks and recreation, economic development and affordable housing for vulnerable populations were also cited as concerns for the stakeholders.
Respondents said the top opportunity for Milton is to give the public access to its Greenspace Bond land purchases.
Milton voters passed a $25 million bond in 2017 to purchase land to use either as passive parks or preservation. Since 2018, the city has purchased over 400 acres, none of them currently open to residents. The city has said some of the sites were purchased solely for preservation, but others, like the former Milton Country Club property, are slated to be passive park space. Milton has not yet opened the site citing safety concerns, but it has approved a master plan for its development and has begun some of that work.
Stakeholders said they also want more active parks and recreational programming. They said more opportunities would be available by collaborating with neighboring cities to provide more services. Respondents also said they sought more diverse city leadership, a friendlier attitude toward business and increased engagement with residents. And while downtown Crabapple continues to expand, respondents said they would like to see more planning and investment in the Deerfield Parkway area.
The five-year strategic plan and 2040 comprehensive plan will each serve as guiding documents for the future of Milton, but they do vary somewhat in approach. The five-year plan focuses on goals, while the comprehensive plan lays out a blueprint for growth, land uses, master plans, long-term initiatives and other considerations.
A Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee composed of Milton officials and residents has also been created. The city has also contracted several consultants for land use/urban design, market analysis, transportation and sustainability.
The city is slated to host workshops and other informative sessions beginning in January ahead of drafting a five-year plan next spring. The comprehensive plan is expected to be approved by the City Council next summer.
The city’s consultants did lay out some projections it has for the city over the next five years. By 2024, the number of White residents, which is currently 70 percent of Milton’s demographic makeup, will have shrunk with an increase in the Asian and bi- or poly-racial population. They also foresee the average age of residents increasing in the coming years. Milton’s current estimated population is around 40,000, with about 3,000 more residents expected to call the city home in 2024.