What New Urban Roswell Stands For... and Against

I've taken a lot of heat lately for my support of several developments that have attracted the ire of some.  I've been very vocal about the merits of Vickers Village and the proposed development at Chaffin and Hembree.  I've been mixed but more positive than negative on the Goulding development.  I've argued my point that these developments are good in the long run for Roswell.  All three of them increase connectivity, improve walkability, add unique housing stock and either mix housing types or mix uses.  These are all critical components of building truly walkable cities and we need them everywhere not just in the historic district.

The Facebook world has gotten interesting (I guess it always has been) with some serious and not-so-serious debates going on.  Some have called me out as a hypocrite and a fake for daring to drive my car.  Do I support building a more walkable city where we all can make fewer trips by car?  Yes.  Does that mean that I have to walk everywhere I go?  That doesn't seem reasonable to me and Historic Roswell isn't exactly a walker's paradise yet.

I've been told to move out of Roswell because I referenced developments outside of Roswell that I think are remarkable.  I think everyone has been to places or seen places that they would like to see emulated in some way in their hometown.  Places that aren't Roswell that I really like: Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Charleston, Savannah, Serenbe, The Waters, Hampstead Village, Vickery Village, Virginia Highlands, Grant Park...

I believe I have stayed consistent in my message but I want to clarify.  New Urban Roswell exists to bring attention to good and bad development while poking some fun at some of the ridiculousness that finds its way into the built environment.

Here's what New Urban Roswell stands for.

  1. The Charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism - "We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy." Read the full charter
  2. Building More Walkable Neighborhoods that Reduce Our Dependence on Cars - New development should have connectivity requirements and give people the opportunity to walk or bike for at least some of their daily needs.
  3. Mixed-Use Development - Where appropriate, new development should have a mix of uses either vertical or horizontal.
  4. Quality Architecture - High quality architecture should be a requirement regardless of the type of building.  There is far too much garbage that gets built in this world and I view architecture as one of the most lasting and influential art forms.  I understand that not every development will be of Lew Oliver quality but that is my gold standard for our city and ultimately is my measuring stick.
  5. Supporting the Expansion of MARTA Rail into North Fulton - It's time.  Even if funding were secured and the effort started today, we wouldn't see a station at Holcomb Bridge for another 8-10 years. It's time to get started.
  6. Adding Street and Trail Connectivity - Building more connections will make getting around our city a more pleasurable experience by car, bike or foot.  Adding trails along our creek beds and continuing to complete our Roswell Loop network should be top priorities for the city.
  7. Narrow lanes and Safe Streets - Narrow lanes make streets safer.  We should adopt a 10.5' maximum lane width for any street with residential uses.  Additionally, we should adopt a 25mph speed limit for any street with residential uses and offer exceptions for some streets to 30mph.
  8. Quality Zoning - The UDC is a step in the right direction. It by no means gets every parcel right.  We should continue to move toward more of a form based code.
  9. Historic District Master Plan - This city should have a master plan for the historic district.  The DPZ plan was accepted but not adopted.  We need to go further.
  10. City Green and Pocket Parks - The City Green should be built and placed as a top priority.  I also support having a pocket park within a 10 minute walk of every home in Roswell.  We have plenty of large destination parks but not nearly enough of the Sloan Street variety.
  11. Hiring a Town Architect - Our design by committee approach is a bit much.  There are far too many chefs in the kitchen when projects are discussed. Staff, Planning Commission, Design Review Board, Historic Preservation Commission and City Council could be involved in design guidance and in some cases mandates for projects.  A town architect would help drive coherence and consistency in the process and outcomes.

So, that's a solid list of what New Urban Roswell stands for. Now, there are some things that New Urban Roswell stands firmly against. I've heard, read and seen far too much hyperbole, misinformation, conjecture and flat out untruth about the developments I've supported.  There has also been a great deal of libel tossed out about the people behind the developments as well as the the people who represent our city on the city council.  I don't stand for that and I also don't stand for the following:

  1. Sprawl - Inefficient use of land is, quite frankly, shameful and I firmly stand against it.  I loved a comment from someone on my Facebook page that we don't need "urban sprawl" like the Chaffin/Hembree development.  I'd like to point out that you live in "urban sprawl" and that the Chaffin/Hembree development is actually less sprawling than the surrounding area and it's exactly the type of 'urbanism' that helps address the ills of "urban sprawl."
  2. Single-Use Subdivisions - We need to build a mix of uses into our places.  Otherwise, we continue to perpetuate the sprawling, car-culture that creates the mess we live in.
  3. Monocultures of Housing Types - Any single-use subdivision that lacks a diversity of housing types is a monoculture that adds nothing to the unique character of our or any other city.  What they do effectively do is make the production process easier and faster so that developers and builders can get in and get out quickly. 
  4. Townhomes Without Towns - Townhomes have a place.  They can shape streets in great mixed-use neighborhoods.  They can accentuate neighborhoods with a mix of housing types.  However, they should never be stand alone subdivisions inserted on a parcel for the sole intent of maximizing the residential yield of a property.  This happens way too much in Roswell.
  5. Gated Subdivisions - Yes, I live in one and would take the gates and fences down if it were up to me.  That said, they cut off connectivity and create dead zones and superblocks that hinder walkability and good urbanism.
  6. Cul-de-sacs - We have over 1300 Cul-de-sacs or Dead Ends in Roswell.  This is a significant contributor to our notoriously bad traffic because of a lack of connectivity between neighborhoods.  Cul-de-sacs should be allowed where geographically appropriate but nowhere else. 
  7. Uninformed Opinions Masquerading as Fact - It's okay to oppose something because you don't like it or to oppose something because there is factual data to support your decision.  However, opinions masquerading as fact are non-starters in my book.  If you say something will kill property values, prove it.  If you say a development will cause additional traffic, tell me how much.  If you say a new development will lower your quality of life, umm... you may want to reevaluate some things.
  8. Redundant and Unnecessary Road Signs - I almost forgot my Stop the Madness campaign. We need to rid our city of all the ridiculous and unnecessary signs that are polluting our landscape.  

So, there you have it.  I'm in favor of building more lovable places with a diverse mix of housing types and uses that are safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians where people don't have to get in their cars to live their lives.