Development Code launch draws full house of engaged residents

Kicking off Tuesday evening’s 90-minute public presentation and listening session, consultant team leader Caleb Racicot laid out the promise of Snellville’s Development Code Renovation effort in no uncertain terms.

“We have the opportunity,” he said, “for the general public — all of you — to finally have an accessible, readable framework to guide the growth you want to see. One that’s easy to understand, easy to use, and speaks the way regular people speak.”

6.29.16 UDO Meeting SignTo this end, he and his firm are currently in the midst of listening. A lot. For the past several months they’ve informally sought a wide variety of perspectives and concerns, taking lengthy notes as those across the community — from city officials, staff, and board members, to residents and neighborhood groups, to builders and developers, to members of our faith communities, to small business owners and entrepreneurs — have made their priorities known.

From this input has emerged a series of seven broad themes guiding the effort, which were presented for community review, comment, and affirmation in last night’s meeting.

Review the evening’s presentation here. (5mb .pdf)

What’s it all add up to?

Working with a subject that’s inherently dry and complex, Racicot endeavored to warm it up for a largely non-technical audience of residents and property owners.

“What it comes down to is this,” he said. “Your present code (which can be reviewed here) dates back to the 80s when development here meant turning farms and forests into subdivisions and strip retail. Today, you’re largely built out. Most development on the horizon will come in the form of redevelopment — rebuilding on previously developed sites. That’s a whole different game and requires a different set of rules if you want to win.”

Thus, this Unified Development Ordinance initiative — a pulling together, organizing, and updating of the city’s various subdivision, infrastructure, and development regulations — which, according to Racicot, will achieve three objectives:

  • The city and its residents have, over the years, developed a number of growth-related plans. The Unified Development Ordinance will be the regulatory framework by which those plans can be implemented most effectively.
  • The document will be accessible, well organized, and easy to use.
  • Its prescriptions and methods will align will accepted industry best practice.


Questions and input

In response, attendees offered a number of questions. In particular was concern about the Towne Center. Will the new code have the teeth necessary to ensure it’s actually built out as envisioned by the community? The present code, it was felt, is not delivering on expectations.

Racicot stressed that the actual writing of the rules is the easy part. What makes the difference is the level of regulation requested by the community. If residents want tighter control, he and his firm can write tighter controls. If looser controls are preferred, they can be tailored accordingly.

“What’s important,” he said, referring to the subsequent input exercise, “is that you let us know how you feel about it. We’re listening and what we’ve heard and will hear tonight are the marching orders we’ll take moving forward.”

In response to another question, Racicot laid out the code’s 12-18 month pathway to adoption — from listening, to beginning their work, to community meetings along the way that drill down on specific issues, to a full draft with opportunity for community review and comment to, finally, a closing draft to be subject to the city’s usual review and voting process by relevant city boards and commissions.

Closing out the night, residents were afforded the opportunity to fill out comment cards reflecting their own ideas and concerns about future growth in Snellville. Those comments are being transcribed and organized and will be made available in the future here on this site. So stay tuned.

We’ll leave this post with a collection of photos from the evening. Reactions can be left below or, if you’ve got input towards the team’s work, submit it directly here.