CUMMING -- The city of Cumming has changed a lot in 20 years, and officials want to see more new businesses and mixed-use facilities over the next 20.
On Tuesday the steering committee for the update to Cumming’s comprehensive plan, which is the blueprint for the city’s next 20 years, held a meeting with planner Jerry Weitz, of Jerry Weitz and Associates, to discuss changes likely coming to the city, including what development should be prioritized.
The plan will detail the next 20 years of land use for the city and shows commercial development coming to certain areas.
Similar to the update of Forsyth County’s comprehensive plan, it breaks the city into smaller areas with similar goals. The areas are typically corridors of major roads.
The update will not change zonings but will define areas by character.
“We will not be going back in and changing zonings, but a property owner could look at this map and say, ‘I like that idea, I want to zone it” and chances are the council would approve it if it’s consistent,” Weitz said.
Weitz said some corridors will not see huge changes in zoning types, including Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west), Buford Highway (Hwy. 20 east), Castleberry Road, Dahlonega Street and Kelly Mill Road, though others may.
Weitz said the areas near Ga. 400 are ideal for new business growth but will likely have to deal with geographic issues.
“On Ga. 400 we’ve got a lot of vacant land and that’s recommended for commercial development or office-commercial multi-story,” he said.
“It seems to fit that area because you have steep topography and you’re going to be limited by how much footprint you can put down on those steep slopes and so-forth.”
Weitz said the area is also suitable for business campuses.
Pilgrim Mill, which is largely open space, may see the greatest change within the city. One possible use for the area is mixed-use developments with a lower density than those typically found in a city or town center area.
“As everybody knows, you’ve got a great amount of vacant land in that area,” Weitz said. “We designated that as mixed-use at a suburban scale … we’re talking about commercial use.”
The area is also likely to see more institutional uses.
“With the university up there and driver’s license facility and aquatic complex, you’ve got a lot of room to grow institutional there,” Weitz said.
Housing and retail and food options to serve the University of North Georgia community were also discussed.
As downtown Cumming has little room for growth without redevelopment, Weitz said the only change in zoning for downtown Cumming would be making an area south of Meadow Drive available for a mixed-use project.
There was also discussion of some suburban mixed-use in the area near the Cumming Fairgrounds.
In a community questionnaire done by planners, re-developing downtown was given as a top answer.
Like downtown, there is also little change for the area near Market Place Boulevard due to it already being heavily developed.
One change was a large tract of private land between Sanders Road and Market Place Boulevard to be deemed appropriate for commercial and multi-story office, which could become a company campus.
“If you’re going to it that deep, I think it’s good because an office park that’s kind of off the road and doesn’t need road frontage,” Councilman Christopher Light said.
How did we get here and what’s next?
For the update, planners spoke with city staff, the steering committee stakeholders and put out a community questionnaire, which gained more than 200 responses before the meeting.
Weitz said those who responded to the survey were generally in favor of city services – police, parks, the Cumming Fairgrounds and utilities – and the environment of the city.
“More than three quarters agreed or strongly agreed that Cumming has excellent quality of air, water and land,” Weitz said.
He said respondents were somewhat pleased with street services and more neutral towards the city growing by annexation and city’s administration and zoning departments, which he said was likely due to little day-to-day contact with the departments.
The four biggest issues identified in the questionnaire were traffic congestion, growth, re-development of downtown Cumming and a want for more public events.
Those still wanting to respond to the questionnaire can find a link at cityofcumming.net.
The committee is made up of Councilmembers Christopher Light and Linda Ledbetter and residents Ralph Webb, Randy Murphy, Brent Otwell, Jason May and Troy Brumbalow.
A public hearing was held at the beginning of the meeting, though no speakers came forward.
Near the end of the meeting, resident Danyelle Mullinax spoke in favor of keeping Kelly Mill Road a residential area and limiting commercial growth near homes.
A public hearing on the plan will go before the mayor and City Council at the beginning of the year before going to regional and state review.
The plan is expected be adopted on June 30, 2017.