Town Center Plans Moving Forward
Special planning meetings will commence in January that include the input of the community.
With a new planning firm hired and the town's offer on a key piece of a land, Snellville's town center revisioning plan is on a swift move forward.
City officials recently formalized a nearly $100,000 contract with Suwanee engineering firm Clark Patterson Lee to lead the Town Center Master Plan project. The firm, which has served as the city engineer since 2004, was among seven companies that submitted proposals to the city back in November.
Eric Van Otteren, Snellville's newly hired economic development manager, said the city is hoping for a preliminary report in February, with a final review in March. Next month, special planning charrettes will take place that integrate the opinions of residents and business owners.
The goal, he said, "is to begin implementing as soon as we possibly have information."
The town center rebranding process may also coincide with specific plans for a 10-acre plot of land formerly known as Wisteria Square. Just before Christmas, City Council approved an offer of about $698,000 to Synovous Bank for the property at 2306 Wisteria Drive.
Gregory Hudgison spokesman for Columbus, Ga.-based Synovous Bank said in an e-mail Wednesday that there was no news on the city's offer. Reached Wednesday evening, Snellville City Manager Russell Treadway said the bank had not accepted the offer.
If the bank accepts the offer, the land – once planned for a live, work and play community proposed by developer Douglas Spohn – would fold into plans for a vibrant town center.
"Snellville is just ripe and ready to move forward now," said City Councilman Mike Sabbagh. "The next step is put forth a grandiose plan which deals with partners, stakeholders, businesses and most importantly the citizens of Snellville as we all can contribute to the Town Center main vision."
Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer said the city would have been farther along if it had not been for previous contention on the council.
"From basically 2005 to basically 2009, we sat and did nothing because we had a divided council," he said. "We had members on the council who really didn't care."
But, he added, "we got rid of them."
Now, that staff turnover and council unrest has quieted, the mayor is confident the city can move forward with its Town Center plans.
"In 2000, people would have said where was downtown Snellville," Oberholtzer said. "It was the intersection of 78 and 124, because Snellville didn't have a downtown."
In 2005, the city dedicated the current City Hall building and the Snellville Senior Center both on Oak Road to help give the city some identity apart from being the place between Atlanta and Athens off of Highway 78.
It's working, officials said, but the revisioning process will bring back momentum for the effort. City officials hope residents and businesses take part in the plan, so everyone's ideas are heard.
"We've got some store fronts and functioning businesses already, and that's a good thing," said Van Otteren, the city's economic development manager. "One of the first key steps to do is to create a reason that people know what Snellville is."