CAC Meeting #10

May 17, 2017

The 10th Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting was held on May 17, 2017 to review the City’s roadways for widening, roundabouts and other roadway improvements, to discuss the transportation projects scheduled to be done under the TSPLOST program, to prioritize which activity nodes should be studied in more depth for redevelopment opportunities, to discuss residential density, height and land use criteria for mixed use development areas and to review the existing Character Area and Land Use Maps to the proposed Character Area and Land Use maps to be part of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan for consistency with the recommendations of the CAC members. Fourteen (14) CAC members were in attendance (see attached sign in sheet).

Upon entering the meeting, each CAC member was provided with $82 Million of “Creek Cash” and asked to review the Tier I and II TSPLOST transportation projects and rank them in order of their priority and importance by using their Creek Cash. The CAC members were then given another $10 million in Creek Cash and asked to do the same exercise with the Tier III TSPLOST projects.

The top five Tier I and II TSPLOST projects in priority order are:

1. Medlock Bridge Road at State Bridge Road Improvements
2. New location Road in Technology Park
3. Bridge Improvements
4. Barnwell Road at Holcomb Bridge Road Improvements, and
5.Bell Road and Boles Road operational improvements.

The top five TSPLOST Tier III projects in priority order are:

1. Medlock Bridge Transit-related Enhancements
2. Bridge Replacements
3. Resurfacing Program
4. Sidewalks and Trail Enhancements, and
5. Connected Vehicle Infrastructure (the full lists are attached.)

Next, each CAC members was given three dots with the numbers “1”, “2” and “3” on them and were asked to rank in order of importance which activity nodes were the areas to do in depth planning studies on for future redevelopment opportunities. 

The priority ranking of the city’s activity nodes for future redevelopment planning studies are:

1. Technology Park
2. State Bridge at Medlock Bridge, tied with
3. State Bridge at Jones Bridge.

Housekeeping items were then discussed.  Comp Plan brochures  (attached) were given to each CAC member and each CAC member was asked to help get the word out to the residents of the City that the draft Comprehensive Plan update (Comp Plan) and Transportation Master Plan (TMP) documents would be available for review and comment starting the first of June. 

There was discussion on the fourth Comp Plan Update Workshop, which will be held on June 1st, 2017 in the City Council Chambers from 7 PM to 9 PM. Our planning consultants TSW and POND will be conducting the workshop and the first hour will be an open house where the public may come in and discuss with our consultants the results of the Comp Plan update and new TMP. 

Then a twenty minute presentation will be made to the public followed by a questions and answers session.  The Comp Plan and MTP will be made available to the public online via the City’s website, through website, and via hard copies at City Hall, our two libraries, and at the Municipal Court Building. The documents will be available for review by the public throughout the month of June and July. 

In addition the Community Development Department staff will be taking out to the public via traveling blackboards that will pose four important Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Plan questions that we seek the answers to from the citizens of Johns Creek.  CAC members discussed the concept and provided seven potential questions we could ask the greater public. The seven questions posed were:

1. In Johns Creek I would preserve______________________________.
2. In Johns Creek which roads would you widen to more than 4 lanes __________________.
3. If I could change one thing to Johns Creek to improve the quality of life, I would change___________________________.
4. My perfect Johns Creek park has________________________________________.
5. If I could improve traffic congestion in Johns Creek I would_________________________.
6. If I could add one thing to Johns Creek it would be___________________________.
7. Other than traffic, the biggest issue in Johns Creek is_________________________.

The four questions selected by Community Development staff to ask the public are:

1. In Johns Creek I would Preserve______________________________.
2. If I could change/add one thing to Johns Creek to improve the quality of life, I would change/add___________________________.
3. If I could improve traffic congestion in Johns Creek I would_________________________.
4. Other than traffic, the biggest issue in Johns Creek is_________________________.

The first debut of the traveling blackboards will be May 20 at the Saturday Farmers Market and Touch-A-Truck event being held at the city’s Newton Park from 8 a.m. to noon.  The traveling blackboards are then scheduled to be at the May 22nd City Council Meeting and the June 1st Comp Plan Workshop and will then continue to travel around the city for the next several weeks asking the citizens of Johns Creek for their input.

CAC members were then engaged in a discussion regarding the TSPLOST projects by the Community Development Director, Sharon Ebert and the Public Works Deputy Director for Traffic, Tom Udell.  The issue of whether projects on the TSPLOST list could be changed or not done was discussed.  It was explained to the group that the City’s Attorney has reviewed the matter and will be providing the Mayor and City Council his written opinion at the next City Council meeting to be held on May 22, 2017. In general, there is little wiggle room to deviate from the TSPLOST projects as defined in the city’s TSPLOST list. For example, if the project description states that the road is to be widened, then the roadway must be widened.  Tom Udell explained that certain words in the transportation industry have specific meanings. For example, the word “capacity” means adding more lanes for vehicles, “widening” has to be for cars while “multi-modal” includes both vehicle lanes and bike and pedestrian lanes. Tom acknowledged that given most lay people do not understanding industry terminology, it may not have been clear to the public what they were approving when the TSPLOST was on the November 2016 Referendum.

The group discussed the need to make sure the road widenings kept the roadways well landscaped and green. There was also discussion on whether projects could just not be done.  Some CAC members did not want any of the roadways in Johns Creek widened. There was discussion on if a TSPLOST project cost came in more than what was estimated how that might affect all of the Tier I and possible Tier II projects.  Tom Udell explained that funding for TSPLOST is generated from a ¾ of a penny sales tax in Fulton County and this sales tax revenue is then provided to participating municipalities based on population. It is anticipated that the City of Johns Creek may receive up to $82 million in TSPLOST funds over the next five years for Tier I and Tier II projects. Projects within Tier I may be reprioritized, but they must be completed prior to moving onto Tier II and then Tier III projects. A question was raised as to what would happen if the solution to a project like the intersection improvements at State Bridge and Medlock Bridge roads ended up costing triple the cost of the original estimate and therefore used more TSPLOST funding then planned for, would the City then still be obligated to complete the remaining Tier I projects even if there wasn’t enough funding left.  It was explained that the TSPLOST Tier I projects would be completed based on the tax revenue raised, the City’s prioritization of the projects and the actual cost of work for each project.  The City may also choose to leverage federal or State transportation funding to offset increases in the costs of the TSPLOST projects.  The CAC members were asked if they wanted to review each area of the City with regards to roadway improvements and to discuss road widening projects and other transportation improvements.  The group decided that it was not necessary.

The next review exercise was to go over the changes made to the City’s twelve Character Areas. Each change was described to the group using the revised Character Area map showing the boundary changes and recommendations for the changes.  The CAC members agreed with the new character area boundaries.

The Existing and Future Land Use maps were then reviewed with the CAC members. Director Ebert explained how the residential density information from the new Character Map had been brought into an updated future land use map by using various shades of light and dark yellow and light and dark orange to reflect one, two, three and four dwelling unit (DU) density maximums in the various residential character areas. Thus, the new and updated future land use map (see map attached) reflects all of the actual types of land uses:

1. Utilities
2. Residential (1DU/Acre)
3. Residential (1DU/Acre)
4. Residential (1DU/Acre)
5. Residential (1DU/Acre)
6. Recreation – Public
7. Recreation – Private
8. Schools, Religious Institutions, Municipal
9. Commercial – Office
10. Commercial – Multi-family
11. Commercial – Retail/shopping centers
12. Mixed Use – Low Intensity, and
13. Mixed Use – High Intensity.

Since residential densities per acre had been determined for the residential land uses areas along with height maximums of no more than three stories/40 feet and the type of housing had been restricted to only single family detached in the four residential areas, the criteria on residential density, height and uses for the mixed use areas still needed to be determined.  The new Land Use map indicated a number of potential activity node areas within the City where Low Intensity Mixed Use might be desired. The only area on the map where High Intensity Mixed Use was proposed was in Technology Park. A long discussion then proceeded on what constituted high and low residential densities. The Community Development staff presented to the CAC members a series of examples of residential densities  and heights using photos and site plans of the new Town Center in Brookhaven (17 DU/acre), Glenwood Park in Atlanta (12.5 DU/acre), Suwanee Town Center (3.6 DU/acre) and I’ON in Mt. Pleasant, SC (3.1 DU/acre).   The CAC members discussed the fact that how dense housing looked on a site did not always mean that it felt dense or actually was dense.  They discussed how the Town Center at Brookhaven did not feel crowded when some of the CAC members had been there or similarly that Glenwood Park did not feel crowded when we had visited it on the CAC tour last fall. There was a discussion on how integrating green open space into the residential mix helps to reduce the feeling of overcrowding as Suwanee’s Town Center did not feel like a lot of residential units.  Community Development staff also presented examples of shopping centers that were redeveloped into mixed use developments using the town center  in Mashpee, MA, Mizner Park in Boca Raton, FL and Santana Row in San Jose, CA as examples.   Additional examples of new mixed use developments were also provided to the CAC members using the new town center in Woodstock, GA, Crabapple, Milton, GA, and Vickery in Cumming, GA, Serenbe, GA and Birkdale Village in Huntersville, NC (see attached photos).

The outcome of much discussion was that High Intensity Mixed Use development should be permitted in Technology Park, but only in the area confined by Medlock Bridge Road to the west, south of East Johns Crossing, and east of Lakefield Drive. This area is comprised of approximately 94 acres of land including the City’s approximately 21 acre linear lake park.  The rational presented by one CAC member was that there would remain a buffer of office and institutional land uses separating these high intensity uses from any surrounding residential areas.  Permitted uses would include entertainment, restaurants, commercial, office and residential. Housing types permitted would include single family detached units, duplexes, triplexes, townhomes and stacked flats, but no multi-family garden style apartments.  There was a great deal of discussion on what the maximum residential density should be with a final agreement among a majority of CAC members of 16 DU/acre. The CAC members also discussed the need for a gradation of density within this mixed use area of high, medium and low residential density and there was agreement that this level of detail would be worked out in a future area study of this 94 acre area. The maximum height permitted in this area of Technology Park should be no greater than five (5) stories.

The CAC members then discussed what Medium and Low Intensity Mixed Use residential density should be. A final agreement was reached among a majority of the CAC members that 8 DU/acre should be the maximum Low Intensity Mixed Use permitted and that 12 DU/acre should be the maximum Medium Intensity Mixed Use. Correspondingly, the maximum height in a Low Intensity Mixed Use area should be three (3) stories and four (4) stories in a medium intensity mixed use area. The Future Land Use Map will be updated to reflect these changes including adding the category of Medium Intensity Mixed Use.

The CAC members then reviewed each of the four major residential areas within the city and determined which activity nodes should be permitted to go to a Mixed Use and which should remain Commercial. The following areas were recommended to be kept as commercial, only because there is already a high number of apartment and townhome units surrounding these activity nodes and any additional residential units would only add to traffic congestion:

1. State Bridge at Medlock Bridge – all four quadrants
2. State Bridge at Jones Bridge – Kroger Shopping Center
3. Medlock Bridge at Abbotts Bridge – all four quadrants
4. Jones Bridge at Abbotts Bridge – all four quadrants
5. Douglas Road – the Kroger Shopping Center, and
6. The Medlock Bridge Shopping Center at Wilson Road.

It was discussed that redevelopment could occur in these locations, but that the desired outcome would be a more walkable retail/commercial “Main Street” environment without additional housing units.

The activities node areas that were recommended to be permitted to go to either Low Intensity or Medium Intensity Mixed Use were:

1. Newtown – all three shopping centers – Low Intensity Mixed Use
2. The Jones Bridge Promenade (southeast quadrant) – Low Intensity Mixed use
3. Douglas Road – the two story Bottoms Up Beverages Shopping Center (northwest quadrant) – low Intensity Mixed Use
4. The Grand Pavilion at Kimball Bridge and State Bridge – Medium Intensity Mixed Use, and
5. The Holcomb Bridge Shopping Center (between Nesbitt Ferry and Barnwell roads) – Medium Intensity Mixed Use. There was also discussion whether the area just north of the Holcomb Bridge shopping center that includes the Rivermont Condos and Colony homes could be included as Low Intensity Mixed Use, but no decision was made due to the fact that some of the area is part of the River Corridor.

The CAC meeting ended at about 9:15 p.m. with the group deciding on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 9 the next CAC meeting.  The meeting will be used to review the second draft of the Comp Plan and the TMP.