NORCROSS - Residents of Norcross' Sheffield Forest neighborhood Monday convinced City Council members to vote against a proposed pocket park in their subdivision.
According to Keith Shewbert, the councilman who proposed the park, the plan was to buy the property at 595 Lancelot Drive for about $125,000, demolish the existing house and install a small park. Special purpose local option sales tax funds would be used for the purchase.
Faye McFarland, a 35-year resident of Sheffield Forest, said she thought the park was a good idea for her community.
"I'd like to see greenspace with lights and some benches," McFarland said, adding that the park would have to close at
9 p.m. and allow no alcohol on the premises.
Other residents spoke against the proposed park, saying it would just become a place for teens to loiter.
"So far the city has not done a good job patrolling Sheffield Forest, so what will change?" asked 40-year resident John Cox, who said that kids already loiter in the streets.
Others said the money the city would pay for the park property would be better spent on other improvements, such as entrance signs and street lights.
Councilman David McLeroy voted to deny the purchase, and Councilman Terry Bowie seconded the motion. The vote was 4-1 to deny the purchase, with Shewbert casting the only vote to approve it.
Stream buffer variance, lot width reductions approved
Miller Lowry petitioned Mayor Lillian Webb and the council Monday night, asking for a rezoning of about 3.3 acres on Hunter Street as well as a stream buffer variance from 75 feet to 50 feet. According to Lowry, who has developed other neighborhoods in Norcross, without the rezoning and variance he would have to walk away from the project.
Lowry plans to build 10 single-family detached homes on the 3.3 acres. To fit the houses on the property, standard lot widths and front yard setbacks would have to be reduced, he said, and the standard of buffer around the small creek would have to be cut. Lowry added that the small stream has a lot of trash, old tires and chemicals in it.
Residents of surrounding neighborhoods spoke in favor of Lowry's planned project, saying the area on Hunter Street is an eyesore and has been used for illegal dumping for years.
Connie Weathers, a Norcross resident and certified "Adopt-a-Stream" volunteer, warned council members that the city grants too many stream buffer variances and that the state's drinking water is suffering as a result. The small stream on the Hunter Street property is a tributary of Crooked Creek, which eventually feeds into the Chattahoochee River. According to Weathers, Crooked Creek is considered one of Gwinnett County's most degraded streams.
"A stream doesn't have to be pretty to be considered a stream," Weathers said.
City Council members voted to approve all Lowry's requests, including the stream buffer variance, by a vote of 3-2. Councilmen Charlie Riehm and Terry Bowie voted against the approvals based on the stream buffer variance.
Economic Development Grant Program for DDA voted down
City Administrator Warren Hutmacher presented a plan for an Economic Development Grant Program to encourage downtown revitalization.
According to Hutmacher, under this program the DDA could request funds from the city for projects that meet the city's Master Plan.
The balance of grants outstanding, according to the proposed resolution, would not exceed $1,500,000 or 30 percent of the city's unrestricted reserve fund. The grant would have to be repaid in five years.
"This is a unique opportunity to the DDA and the city to work together," said Hutmacher.
The council voted against the proposed grant program, with Shewbert commenting, "We don't want to be in the real estate business."
Charter school coming
The New Life Academy of Excellence, the county's first startup charter school, will be located in Norcross, according to spokesman Alfonso Forward. The school will be a state-funded kindergarten through third-grade school teaching the Chinese culture and Mandarin Chinese language.
Members of Norcross' Historic Preservation Commission were recognized Monday night for their recent certification as professionally trained historians.
Norcross is now one of 100 Georgia cities with this distinction. With this certification, Norcross is eligible for certain grants to benefit historic sites.