Be Afraid.. Be Very Afraid

The witching month is upon us and some local ghouls, pundits and politicians would have you believe that one of the most terrifying moments in Roswell’s history is looming.  They will have you believe the Unified Development Code (UDC) will cast a shadow of doom over our great city that will be wrought by our current crooked city council and their greedy developer cronies.  These oracles will try to convince you, the naive and credulous, that this new code will usher in smothering density, rampant apartments, skyrocketing crime, soaring infrastructure costs, high-rise buildings, dysfunctional schools, choking traffic and the most ghastly of all...  URBANISM!!!

The UDC does allow for increased density and apartments in certain areas.  Will it be smothering? Is Vickery Village in Cumming a smothering Place?  Are the Providence Townhomes on Canton St smothering?  How about the Bricks and Founders Mill?  What about Liberty Lofts?  I guess they’re right.  Density is unbearable.

Some local examples of Unbearable Density. Clockwise from top left; The Bricks, Founders Mill, Vickery Village, Providence

What about the apartments?  Our current apartment complexes are unmitigated disasters.   Most were not well designed, poorly maintained and thoughtlessly located.  They segregated residents by class and effectively created billboards of indigence.  Lessons have been learned, just take a look at the Canton City Walk plans.  We need new, well-designed apartments like these.

The latest renderings of Canton City Walk illustrate the power of a quality architectural scheme coupled with walkability.

Will we see skyrocketing crime? I have faith in the men and women in law enforcement here in Roswell and the laws we have in place to prevent criminal activity.  It’s just not going to happen.

Infrastructure Costs will soar. Hmm.. Developers pay a lot of infrastructure costs up front and a tighter development pattern reduces infrastructure maintenance costs.  The alternative is to continue a sprawl pattern of development which has proven to cost more to maintain in the long run.  

Evaluation of Urban Residential vs Suburban Residential development in Sarasota, FL. image: Urban3

They’re bringing high-rises.  It’s the ghost of Charlie Brown.  Seriously folks, we have to move on.  The parcel of land at 400 and Holcomb Bridge is too valuable not to redevelop.  The UDC will permit buildings up to 8 stories in that area.  Additionally, it will likely be a future MARTA station.  It’s coming.  Get over it.  It’s only 8 stories.  The next most towering height permitted is 6 stories at Hwy 140 & 9.  There are 6 story buildings all over North Fulton.  Several other areas permit a lofty 4 stories and the rest of the map allows up to 3 stories.  (Correction: 6 stories are permitted in most of the industrial areas North of Mansell along the hwy 9 corridor and east into the industrial areas.  I did not clarify that in the published column.)

Roswell East (aka Charlie Brown) is a little too intense for Roswell. The UDC isn't dictating that this type of development be built anywhere.

Density will destroy our schools.  Huh?  Transiency, poverty and social disorder kill schools not people.  If we build a place where responsible people want to live, regardless of whether they are renters or owners, we won’t have a school problem.  

We will Choke on Traffic.  Our Transportation Master Plan that was approved in September helps address these issues but I challenge anyone out there to name any thriving city that does not have traffic?  Cities and towns without traffic problems are dying cities and towns.  Detroit’s done a fantastic job solving its traffic problem.  

They’re mandating URBANISM!!! - Let’s set this straight.  Urbanism is a design philosophy covering the spectrum from low density to very high density.  Urbanism does not mandate Manhattan but it allows it, just as it allows single family residential. Urbanism promotes connectivity, proximity, mixed-use, walkability, bikeability, incremental change and value creation through effective and thoughtful land use.  

The transect outlines development patterns from Rural to Urban. New Urbanism does not mandate high density.

Canton Street, the Mill Village, Milton Crabapple, Historic Norcross and Marietta Square are all examples of good URBANISM.  So is Seaside which is the only place I can think of that consistently and genuinely has the idyllic “white picket fence” that seems to define the “small-town feel.”  So, how is it that the world’s preeminent model of ‘urbanism’ provides exactly the idyllic, small-town feel that these public agitators preach will be destroyed by said ‘urbanism’? Go sell your Revelations somewhere else preacher men because I’m not buying it.  (30-A stickers anyone?)

The process has been rushed!  I disagree.  Our 2030 Comp Plan was adopted in Oct. 2011.  Amongst other things, it aims to revitalize declining areas, add additional housing options and update existing codes to attract high-quality projects.  Our current codes could not easily accomplish this task and in May 2012 the city brought in Code Studio to assist with the mammoth effort of updating and simplifying them.  A stakeholder committee was formed and has worked diligently over the past 16 months to get to this point. There have been over 40 meetings since the process began and all of them have been open to the public. The process has been well documented and open to the public.

All legislation should have a clear purpose.  The purpose of the UDC is to aid the city in implementing the 2030 Comp Plan and its Strategic Economic Development Plan.  Those that proselytize against the UDC have no plan, they just don’t like this one.  Some of their concerns have some merit but to spout off every worst case scenario to sack legislation is immature and disingenuous.  The bottom line is that Roswell has a plan that was created through a very open process with SIGNIFICANT and UNPRECEDENTED community input and the UDC helps implement that plan.

The kicker is that almost everything the UDC allows could be done today but it would take a lot more effort between the city and developers, builders & property owners thereby wasting taxpayer money and sending a discouraging signal to anyone wanting to do business in Roswell.  The UDC will help Roswell execute on its vision by reducing red tape, clarifying the vision and enabling the private sector to more efficiently and effectively put capital to work.

The Devil’s Advocate likes to say the Devil is in the Details.. I say the Devil is in Delay... NO ONE IS EVER GOING TO AGREE WITH EVERYTHING IN THIS DOCUMENT.


Let your mayor and council know that you support the UDC by sending them an email at