Save Historic Norcross
Do you want your voice to count? Tell the mayor and city council you support balanced development
NOTE - Any called meeting can occur upon 24 hours notice. Agenda is posted on the lobby bulletin board, but not always on City web site
Council meeting agendas can change, so the Public needs to monitor all meetings despite the upcoming holidays and Spring break vacations.
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Other Resources for Historic Preservation
City Has Variety of Growth Management Tools Already in Place
The genie is out of the bottle.
Norcross, like other savvy communities, has available a variety of planning tools to ensure its survival and preserve timeless history.
Employing density in the right areas, establishing Architectural Review processes, creating and training citizen boards to perform design reviews, performing a Historical Resources Survey, designating protected districts, and addressing transition areas that lead into the historic district are important to maintaining the city's character so vital to sustained growth.
Design Concept Development (DCD) and Mixed Use
As set-backs creep closer to streets around the business district, residents are becoming increasingly aware of a new rezoning tool called Design Concept Development (DCD)/Mixed use. As growth progresses, so does the concern that we are not prepared for it. The city has a long history of starting concepts and failing to follow through with refinements. The 2001 LCI Study on page 31 lists a number of events that should take place prior to initiating a DCD rezoning. The majority of these did not happen prior to implementing our first DCD. Will city planners become involved on-going and write a better ordinance, or will they allow criteria, if any, to be left to chance, developers' attorneys, or condo associations yet unformed?
Future success depends on good decision-making. For the definition of Mixed Use - Have sufficient safe-guards been built into ordinances to keep "big boxes" contained in appropriate areas? What controls are needed to encourage the right mix of businesses? Are absentee landlords allowed? What controls are in place for dry cleaners, ATMs, veterinary clinics, grease traps for restaurants, and other special-needs businesses? Where are impact studies, tax data analyses, and economic studies justifying how much "foot traffic' is needed?
Responding to resident concern, the 2006 council pulled DCD zoning back to an area south and east of the train tracks. The intent was to limit density to commercial areas adjacent to the ball field. The reasoning was to sacrifice the historic Cemetery Street gateway to save three turn-of century houses around Skin Alley.
Just after rezoning Cemetery Street to DCD/Mixed Use by a 5/0 vote, a pro-high density 2005 City Council placed a 180-day moratorium on DCD for further study and refinements, but only cosmetic changes were made.
A pro-high density 2004 council approved rezoning some key properties, allowing DCD zoning into residential areas with two key projects. The experimental neo-Urbanism concept was initiated that same year by former Community Development Director Johnny Lawler.
Building under DCD zoning is a departure from the city's traditional zoning in effect since the 1970s. Traditional designations are R for Residential, C for Commercial, O&I for Office and Institutional, M for Industrial; and by street frontage such as 100 feet, 75 feet and 60 feet.
How Much Density Can Our Historic Infrastructure Sustain?
With numbers of projected high-density projects supposedly taking care of downtown retail needs, and developers eyeing in-fill potential within residential areas, just how much growth can our historic infrastructure sustain?
A chart below bears out City Revenue Base (Price Points) and Real Estate Commissions are similar in both High and Medium density projects, While zero lot lines are compatible off a Main Street sidewalk, the concept is unforgiving if street widening is anticipated, such as can be observed on Lawrenceville Street adjacent to the Wada Building. So who benefits most from the concept? Proponents will argue density is needed to kick up price points and stimulate "foot traffic" for business. They cite businesses that failed downtown in recent years. Others say density is not the answer, rents are too high, and other economic factors are against marginal businesses. But definitive impact studies and tax analyses have not been performed. So who benefits most by the push for higher density? Real estate agents say the cheaper units sell faster. Therefore, a developer can make his money quicker, pay his investors, and move on.
If not contained in appropriate areas, higher density means not only more compaction, but also more stress on infrastructure and greater loss of trees and natural stream buffers.
Roles of HPC and ARB
To live in Norcross requires a heightened awareness of what is at risk. Our task today is how to maintain for future generations that unique sense of "Place" that belongs to Norcross and no other place, especially when developers see our hometown as "beachfront property" and covet every foot of space, even to zero lot lines.
Since the centennial of the American Revolution, citizens have had a growing interest in identifying and preserving important aspects of their heritage that is unique to them. With the National Preservation Act passed in the 1960's, states have been encouraging revitalization through preservation practices that include design reviews.
As communities become more aware of the value of their history to long-range planning for survival, extreme demolitions once accepted as appropriate "urban renewal" have become less popular. Citizens have learned property values are enhanced in a neighborhood by compatible in-fill that respects scale, shape, roof-line pitch, and appropriate period design elements to maintain character. Rehabbing, adaptively reusing, or even moving historic property is more the norm in progressive communities today.
Presently, the Architecture Review Board (ARB) reviews both residential and commercial exterior design for all new construction and renovations throughout the entire city. They review the proposed project's exterior design features to ensure that they are compatible with the City's Design Standards. The ARB has been doing this for the last year and a half.
The City's design standards have two main sections, one for the traditional historic district which is basically the same as the National Historic District and the other covers everything else. Once boundaries for the local districts are in place, the HPC will take over the design review of the Historic District that is currently being done by the ARB. The difference between the two council- appointed citizen boards is the ARB's focus is primarily contemporary commercial projects, residential infill and rehabs, all outside of the historic district, whereas, the HPC's focus is historical and reviewing all projects in the historic district.
HPC board members have received specific training in their area, and also serve as a resource for property owners thinking of restorations and adaptive reuse of historic property. ARB members have received training appropriate for their board's function, as well. Both boards hold monthly public meetings.
Citizens Volunteer Group Efforts
A number of citizens groups have become involved to preserve the town's historic resources.
Norcross History CenterThe newly formed Norcross History Center, Inc. has begun an oral history project for its planned museum, aided by $3,200 seed money from the City Council. Location for the museum is tbd.
Save Historic Norcross maintains this website and members often speak before city boards and the council advocating responsible preservation practices and opposing extreme demolitions of contributing historic houses, clear cutting of trees, and stream buffer variances.
The Preservation Alliance, originally the foundation arm of the Norcross Homeowners (NOHA), now the Norcross Neighbors civic group, uses proceeds from the Tour of Homes to place markers in the historic district. With the help of Edie Riehm, Skip Nau, local authors such as John and Martha Adams, the late Irene Crapo, the A.P. Francis book, and a committee of text readers, markers are already in place in a number of locations.
Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Citizen Volunteers
The DDA's Design Committee is responsible for three phases of Wayfinding signage, and the DDA's Promotion Committee has created maps for individual Walking Tours.
© 2008 Save Historic Norcross. Comments? Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The information presented on this website taken from public sources is believed accurate but not warranted.