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Have questions about the new Cumming city center? Mayor Brumbalow gives some updates.
FCN Cumming City Center 111118
An architectural rendering for the planned Cumming city center.

Last week, a new city center in downtown Cumming was announced, and as news spread through the community, there was a lot of excitement and a lot of concerns about what is expected to be a major project in the city.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive, of course, there are people that have been voicing opposition as well,” City of Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow said. “You’re never going to make everyone happy.”

Brumbalow announced plans last week in the Forsyth County News for a new city center project off Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west) featuring an amphitheater, miniature golf, walking trails, park, veterans memorial, space for businesses and a lake with a fountain. The center is expected to open within two years.

The city center will abut Forsyth Central High School on about 60 acres of a 75-acre plot of land. The remaining acreage will be developed by the previous owner for up to 85 townhomes, which will not be owned by the city, and used for walking trails.

Across Canton Highway, about 14 acres will also be donated to the city and will include other walking trails.

Forsyth Central and the city center will share a parking lot located northwest of the school’s football field.

Though the center will largely be green space and businesses, the Cumming Police Department and the city’s municipal court will also move to the development.

A second phase on the western side of the project will bring more retail and office space, and a third phase has been discussed but not approved. Part of the property lies in Forsyth County and will need to be annexed into the city.

Brumbalow said he did not have a final price for the project since the city is still finalizing plans but that it would be paid for through the city’s reserve funds.

“The city will own it, and we’ll lease the space out,” Brumbalow said. “That will generate a lot of revenue for the city in the general fund for a long time.”

Community concerns

Since the news broke, Brumbalow said he has gotten a lot of responses from the community, including concerns from some city residents.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest issues raised has been traffic along Canton Highway.

“We’ve already talked to [Georgia Department of Transportation]. They’re going to add a red light coming in on [Hwy.] 20,” Brumbalow said. “The 20 expansion will be happening about the time this is finishing up, so this is going to alleviate traffic back-ups in that area.”

Another traffic concern is a proposed second entrance on Sawnee Drive, which would go in an area between the Adair Park subdivision and First Baptist Church of Cumming.

Brumbalow said the city would be working with residents in the neighborhood and the plan wasn’t final.

“We’re not going to force it down their throats,” he said. “If that’s the consensus, that they want to tie in their neighborhood to the city center because that other road would go through Adair Park Homeowner Association common property. We’re not going to do that by eminent domain. If that’s something they were happy with, we would string it with trees and try to address any concerns.”

Brumbalow said if the road is built, neighbors would have easy access to the center and Canton Highway.

Other neighbors also brought up potential noise issues with performances at the amphitheater.

“This isn’t Verizon Amphitheatre. It doesn’t seat that many; you’re not going to have 5,000 people at a concert,” Brumbalow said. “It’s not that big. The noise, it’s all going to be respectful of adjacent property owners that were there before the center. You’re not trying to play to 50,000 people. The volume doesn’t need to be that loud.”

Federal land grant

The center is also an opportunity for the city to take care of issues tied to a federal land grant.

Brumbalow said the grant is related to the new City Park building and a federal grant that was approved when the original park was built more than 40 years ago.

Under terms of the grant, the property was to be used strictly for outdoor recreation, which was the primary use until the city built the new Cumming Recreation Center, which opened in 2016.

Brumbalow said he was contacted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division within about a month of starting his term at the beginning of 2018.

The grant, which was originally for $80,000, is based on the value of the land, which has gone up considerably since the grant was approved.

“Basically, what the city had to do is we had to get the property at the old city park appraised for its highest and best use, just the property, not the buildings,” Brumbalow said. “Then we had to replace that land with park space of equal or greater value. That appraisal came in at $1,150,000.”

Brumbalow said with the appraisal being higher, that also means the city will have to replace more land than City Park has.

“If [the city center] were not to appraise for that much, then you’ve still got to come up with the difference in park space,” he said. “It’s really sad the way this grant works. We’re going to be dedicating 25-30 acres of park space and the old city park was seven or eight acres, but it’s all based on the value.”