While speaking to Roswell residents, I consistently hear that they love Roswell because it’s such a great place to live. That’s why my first priority is protecting and enhancing our quality of life. But what exactly does this phrase mean? To some, quality of life means attractive neighborhoods, quality recreation, beautiful parks, creative arts and culture, and excellent schools. To others, quality of life means a scenic river setting, historic charm, a walkable downtown, quality restaurants, and abundant festivals and events. To even others, quality of life means participating in the many volunteer opportunities, and the active non- profit and faith-based organizations that give Roswell a generous community spirit. To me, all of the above, and more, go into making Roswell a unique, thriving community which we are glad to call home. So how do we protect and enhance our cherished community?
We need to be mindful and vigilant concerning the impacts of new development on existing neighborhoods, city services, and the city’s infrastructure. Quality growth is essential. New projects should be compatible with surrounding properties and have a mass and scale that is appropriate for the area. Quality design, as outlined in the city’s design guidelines, is imperative and is the first step to ensuring that new projects are aesthetically pleasing, complement the adjacent neighborhoods, and enhance our quality of life.
Roswell is fortunate to have over 900 acres of city park land, a national park, the Chattahoochee Nature Center, the Chattahoochee River, and a number of significant streams and creeks all within its borders. These natural resources are unique to Roswell and provide recreation and education opportunities as well as hundreds of acres of undisturbed natural area for our city. In addition, years of planning and investment have led to Roswell having an award winning Recreation and Parks Department that is consistently ranked as one of the top 5 programs in the country. Continued protection, maintenance, and investment in these natural assets will contribute to our great quality of life.
One related initiative that I am pursuing is the creation of a Roswell Trail Network. The goal is to create a city-wide network of walking and biking trails that complement our sidewalks, bike lanes, and multi-use trails. There are a number of streams, creeks and rivers throughout the city that have buffers and flood plains that are unbuildable. By utilizing these areas for environmentally sensitive trails, we can create a series of linear parks or greenways around the city that can be used for recreation, trips to the grocery store, or daily commutes. Still in its infancy, the trail network concept has been embraced by a landscape architecture firm that has offered to create a master plan at no cost to the city.
Schools, churches, and non-profit service organizations are an integral part of the Roswell community. While the governance of each of these organizations is separate from the City Government, there are an abundance of opportunities for the City to partner with these groups to share facilities, sponsor events, or provide educational programs. Partnerships such as sharing parks and athletic fields with local schools, sponsoring festivals and cultural events organized by non-profits, and sharing parking and building facilities with local churches, enable each organization to expand its ability to serve the community. Partnering with our schools, churches, and non-profit service organizations adds a great deal of depth to our city and enhances our quality of life.
Personally, my wife Kelly and I have been very involved in our schools. Kelly has served on the PTSA in numerous capacities including her current position as President of the Roswell High School PTSA. I have proudly served on the Roswell North Elementary Foundation for the last three years, even though our daughters are in high school and our home is not in the Roswell North school district.
Despite being a well-located, beautiful city with a rich heritage, Roswell is not immune to the impacts of the worldwide recession. Prior to 2008, Roswell benefited from a robust US economy and strong growth in the Atlanta region. This growth enabled Roswell to thrive with very little self-promotion. Now, as we recover from the Great Recession, growth is much slower and Roswell needs to implement a strategy that will recruit new businesses and develop its existing businesses. The good news is that my colleagues and I have already created this strategy and we will continue to build upon the following.
I support the continued investment in and implementation of the strategic economic development plan. This plan enables us to better understand our community’s strengths and weaknesses, and helps us to identify businesses and industries that are attracted to Roswell. It also provides an appropriate marketing strategy to effectively pursue those businesses and industries. As part of this endeavor, we have created a steering committee of several dozen talented Roswell residents and business owners who have a wide variety of expertise and experience. These professionals provide local experience and perspective so that the plan effectively capitalizes on Roswell’s unique characteristics.
Historically, Roswell has depended primarily on its location to attract new residents and new businesses to the community. While location is important, North Fulton as a whole has established itself as a desirable place to locate. In order to remain competitive, Roswell needs to clearly communicate its unique identity. By strategically building awareness of Roswell and creating an identity that is easily recognizable and understandable, we can effectively promote Roswell as a desirable place to live, work, and play. I support efforts to create a comprehensive branding strategy that clearly communicates Roswell’s distinctive qualities.
One of the best ways to grow the local economy is by providing incentives for job creation. Four years ago the City petitioned the state to receive a designation as an opportunity zone. This designation provides an incentive to create jobs by giving a $3,500 state tax credit annually for five years for each new employee that a business hires. I support Roswell Inc.’s efforts to vigorously market this opportunity both to new businesses that could potentially locate in the city and to existing businesses as they consider growing in Roswell. Recent successes such as General Motors bringing over 1,500 jobs to Roswell underscore the significance of this important program.
Many people think of transportation as moving automobiles. In Roswell, transportation also includes bicycles, pedestrians, and buses. These alternative means of transportation are important to our overall health as a city and are a major component in our transportation planning. While we continue to improve our bicycle and pedestrian network, one of the most significant transportation challenges in Roswell is that our city is traversed by five state roads, namely Georgia Routes 9, 92, 120, 140 and 400. While these roads provide circulation, they also bring wide expanses of asphalt and large amounts of traffic. Fortunately, Roswell has an award winning transportation department that understands the importance of balancing the state’s requirements for these roads with the needs of our residents.
My focus on transportation improvements has been, and will continue to be, one of innovative design. We need creative solutions, like the roundabout at Grimes Bridge, that are context-sensitive, consider adjacent land use, and provide for pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars. We need to improve circulation in and around the city so that we improve our quality of life and so that our businesses can thrive. As we look to the future I will support roadway improvements that address the following:
Roads that are not performing at an optimal safety level or that have too much congestion can lead to hesitant driving, improper movements, and accidents. We have two major roadways within Roswell that are considerably impacted by these ailments, South Atlanta Street and Holcomb Bridge Road. The reversible lanes on South Atlanta Street and the numerous intersections and lane changes on Holcomb Bridge Road around the GA400 interchange lead to driver confusion making conditions less than ideal. In addition, both roads are major commuter routes which has them running above capacity during rush hour. As we have seen, even the smallest incident can cause congestion throughout the city. To address these specific roads, I have championed the design of two significant transportation improvements, the Historic Gateway and the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Study. Design for the Historic Gateway is well underway and construction has begun on many improvements identified in the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Study. The projects will provide considerable safety enhancements and congestion relief for these corridors.
While improving some of the major thoroughfares in Roswell will help relieve congestion, one of the best solutions for local traffic is to increase connectivity. By creating or enhancing alternative routes, Roswell residents can maneuver around the City without getting caught up in the through traffic on major roads. During my first term as your Councilman, we completed the Mimosa Street extension, which increases connectivity around Canton Street, and the Swaybranch extension, which provides a parallel street on the south of Holcomb Bridge Road. I support our most ambitious connectivity project, the Big Creek Parkway, which will connect Warsaw Road and Old Alabama Road by building a bridge across GA400. This additional connectivity will allow Roswell residents to drive, bike or walk across GA400 without having to navigate Holcomb Bridge Road. Other connectivity opportunities that I have championed are the Sun Valley Extension (connecting Mansell Road to Route 9) and the Mansell Road extension (connecting Crossville Road to Route 9). I support pursuing these and similar projects that will enable our residents to easily travel around the city.
As we evaluate the importance of various transportation projects, we need to take into consideration the impact that these infrastructure improvements will have on the surrounding property. Many of our older commercial properties suffer from a lack of good access. In many cases, providing better automobile, bicycle and pedestrian access will enhance the value of these properties and may lead to redevelopment. A good example of this is the Big Creek Parkway mentioned above. Not only will this road enhance safety, reduce congestion and increase connectivity, it will also provide much needed access to the northwest quadrant of Holcomb Bridge Road and GA 400. This increased access will create opportunity for redevelopment of property that is currently severely hampered by its lack of access to major roads.
Roswell has many commercial properties and aging apartment complexes that are in need of redevelopment. However, redevelopment even in good times is not easy. The current economic climate makes it even more challenging. First, redevelopment requires that a private property owner is willing to sell or re-invest in his or her property. Second, the potential project needs to be economically viable. Third, there needs to be a demand for the new project. Since redevelopment is primarily driven by the private sector, and demand for commercial space is currently limited, I support efforts to promote redevelopment and prepare for future opportunities by pursuing the following:
The city does not control private property but it does control the streets and the surrounding right-of-way. I support investing in roadway improvements and water, sewer and storm water upgrades, in order to put the infrastructure components in place that are necessary for redevelopment to occur. In addition, by investing in projects like the Midtown and Oak Street Streetscapes that have been completed, the City can increase safety and improve access while beautifying the public street. We have learned from the success of Canton Street that streetscape improvements lead to further investment by property owners and developers. I have championed projects such as the Historic Gateway and the Holcomb Bridge Corridor Study at GA 400. These important projects will reduce congestion, enhance safety and make aesthetic improvements to two areas of Roswell that struggle from overburdened infrastructure, and are in need of redevelopment.
One of the most beneficial efforts to promote redevelopment has been the reinstatement of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). This important board of local residents, property owners, and business professionals is engaged in short and long range plans designed to revitalize property in the downtown district and to promote economic growth. These plans include a range of projects from implementing some of the redevelopment tools mentioned above to exploring the building of a parking deck near Canton Street. By taking the lead in revitalization, the DDA can invest in projects that will be a catalyst for redevelopment.
Four years ago, Roswell voters approved a significant redevelopment tool, the Redevelopment Powers Act. This important legislation allows the City to create Tax Allocation Districts (TADs) which enable the City to fund public infrastructure improvements using the increased taxes from redevelopment. TADs provide investors with additional assurance that once their project is completed, the funds will be available to provide necessary public improvements. While Roswell has not implemented a TAD to date, simply having this capability has led to increased interest by investors looking at redevelopment opportunities along Alpharetta Highway and at the northwest corner of Holcomb Bridge and GA400. I support exploring tools and incentives such as TADs, business improvement districts, façade programs, tax incentives, expedited permitting and reduced fees that will encourage redevelopment.