Goals, Policies & Key Work Items
The Norcross Comprehensive Plan team had a lot to cover for the final Steering Committee meeting, including Goals and Policies as well as the Community Work Program. Before diving into the details, we updated the committee on the status of the project overall. One major detail – the survey currently online has been extended until 10/28. Please spread the word and participate in the survey HERE. You can help by sharing this information on Facebook posts and group pages, Instagram, twitter, Nextdoor, mailing lists and word of mouth.
Goals & Policies
Project Manager, Jim Summerbell introduced the Goals and Policies discussion on goals and policies. Goals and Policies are filtered through the needs and opportunities to develop action items to implement the plan.
Throughout this process we have spoken with community members and reviewing previous plans to further understand the direction that Norcross wants to go in. After much discussion, the community has established that the goals from the previous Comprehensive Plan are pretty in line with what should be pursued.
The goals have essentially remained and read as follows:
Continue to define Norcross’ sense of place.
Continue to strengthen Norcross as a livable, inclusive, and safe environment. (“inclusive” was added to the list of characteristics)
Increase opportunities for travel via different modes within and outside the community.
Maintain a vibrant economy and continue to facilitate job growth.
Further the City’s tradition of strong leadership and a high level of quality services.
The policies support the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and guide rezoning and capital investment decisions. These policies are organized by population, economic development, land use, transportation, housing, and community facilities and resources. The current policies can be found on pages 72-26 of the 2034 Comprehensive Plan (HERE). Our team drafted a list of policies for the 2040 Comprehensive Plan that you can read HERE.
The committee had a few comments on what we drafted:
Josh Bare said that he wished that these included something about conservation subdivisions and preserving historic trees, trees are still dying and developers are grading subdivisions without proper tree regulations
Pedestrian crossings and sidewalks should be improved. Crossing over rail road tracks is difficult. Current policy about railroad crossings (T3) should be revised to be more pedestrian-oriented.
Matt asked what is the Norcross feel we want to preserve?
Josh says we can improve a sense of community by requiring homes to face out to main road. A lot of new subdivisions face away and have fences around their neighborhoods.
Some like the policy that infill development should reflect desired development for the neighborhood and think there are some places where more substantial infill development that changes the character will be needed (e.g. converting 5-acre single-family home to a small residential development) to accommodate the need for reasonably priced homes. There are some places, though, where they want to preserve the “Norcross feel.” Want to consider special provisions for signature corridors.
Reinforce the role of the Architectural Review Board as a mechanism to ensure quality and the need for all boards to come to developers with a clear, consistent message about what the city’s standards and desires.
What are your thoughts on the draft policies? Leave a comment below!
Needs & Opportunities
The group also commented on the Needs and Opportunities gathered through community events, our online survey, interviews, and the Steering Committee Meetings:
Maintain and enhance a sense of community, small-town feel, and level of community services as new development comes online.
The committee agrees that this is a priority. Small town feel can be addressed with growth as long as the scale is consistent with that of a small town
Mitchell Rd is an economic development avenue, but has been ignored. Think this should be a next priority for redevelopment (over Beaver Ruin Rd). Need to extend redevelopment activity on the south side of Buford Hwy and this road is narrower with lower travel speeds, better suited for neighborhood style development. Greenway has been proposed along Mitchell Rd.
Ensure housing is available to all residents and newcomers with unique public amenities such as parks and family-friendly activities.
Matt Myers said that we should highlight young residents and retirement age citizens as well; he doesn’t think attracting people is a problem. Some people can’t afford to live here.
Meghan responded that the Principal of Summerour Middle said teachers can elect to teach at another school in the system after 3 years and they usually do because they prefer to a short commute from where they can afford to live
Unite the community across cultural backgrounds and socio-economic status
Emphasize the arts to unite people
Norcross Public Arts Commission as a vehicle to do this
Address transportation needs and traffic congestion by
Improving walkability and the pedestrian infrastructure beyond Downtown,
Implementing trails and greenways, and
Supporting the expansion of MARTA rail to increase local and regional connectivity and attract commerce.
Gwinnett County/GDOT planning expansion along portions of Jimmy Carter Blvd. They need to coordinate with them to make sure they are incorporating multi-use paths as part of this project, as JCB will be a primary link between Downtown and the potential transit station at I-85/JCB.
Attract younger families and invest in our schools.
Committee members still view this as a priority
Improve quality of life through sustainable practices
Committee hopes to see the plan address sustainability in the economy in addition to the environmental component.
Leverage technology and explore Smart City strategies.
Include programs to bridge gap to communities that may not have computers and internet at home.
Community Work Program
The Community Work Program is a to-do list for City Staff and Elected Officials. It’s created on a 5-year timelines with discrete projects and action items. It also identified the responsible agency, estimated cost, and potential funding sources. At this meeting, we discussed potential key action items organized by goal, which have been derived by the input from the community, City Staff, and previous plans. Read on to see priority actions for each goal and the Steering Committee’s comments:
GOAL 1: Continue to define Norcross’ sense of place.
Adopt a new Unified Development Ordinance
Strengthen tree protections
Enhance and maintain the city’s gateways, including new features at:
Holcomb Bridge Rd and LCI boundary
Jimmy Carter Blvd and W. Peachtree St
Mitchell Rd and Buford Hwy
Support efforts to preserve the city’s historic resources
Continue to program community events like the Community Market and Gateway Int’l Festival
Add Arts as a way to achieve this goal as well.
Designate signature corridors and add Streetscapes along HBR, PTree, Mitchell Rd and the main corridors.
GOAL 2: Continue to strengthen Norcross as a livable, inclusive, and safe environment.
Sidewalk and Transportation Improvement Plan and sidewalk fund
Encourage the development of the Downtown Entertainment District
Be an active partner in the redevelopment of the Buford Hwy corridor
Participate in the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH)
Revise UDO to allow a wider variety of housing types
Maintain Platinum Green Community Status
Redevelop Pinnacle Park as a recreational amenity
Implement Johnson-Dean Park Master Plan
Redevelop Mitchell Rd parcel as park
Continue to offer youth health, wellness, and storytelling programs through the Community Center
Incentivize the type of development the community wants to see, including an emphasis on locally-owned businesses
Best friend park is a county-owned facility just outside city limits. Could look into improving bike/ped access to the park to increase its utility for city residents.
Additional green space needed on the south side of Buford Hwy. Action step could be identifying and acquiring potential park parcels in this area.
Previous plan lists Mitchell Rd parcel as potential neighborhood park. Committee members recall there being a city-owned parcel along Mitchell that’s in a floodplain/under power lines. Need to identify/verify.
Sonia Lopez said there are rogue parcels that could be neighborhood parks at Everglade, and that we need to work on expanding Downtown footprint.
This may involve DDA property acquisition. Their downtown has an atypical ownership structure where the city is actually the landlord for most buildings and merchants are tenants.
Increase opportunities for travel via different modes within and outside the community.
Work with regional partners to expand transit service
Continue the development of a robust trail and greenway system with seamless connections to the county’s greenway system, including the implementation of Beaver Ruin Creek Greenway
Establish a Sidewalk Connectivity Program
Complete Downtown Parking Study
Improve bus stops along Buford Hwy, Beaver Ruin Rd, and Norcross Tucker Rd
Implement recommendations from the Town Center Railroad Crossing Concept/Traffic Study
Explore opportunities for pedestrian connections between cul-de-sacs
Work with GDOT to explore opportunities for additional medians and pedestrian refuges on Buford Hwy
Explore mid-block crossings on Buford Hwy and Beaver Ruin Rd
Add rideshare as a priority. Dedicated pick up and drop off points would be a great feature for the community.
Connectivity to downtown Norcross
Connection to potential transit station at I-85/JCB
Portions of Thrasher St may be too narrow. Do not want a serious road widening project, know that would lead to higher travel speeds. Want to identify segments that may be too narrow, some committee members think there are places where it isn’t even wide enough for two cars to pass.
Review and add Jimmy Carter LCI projects
City recently made deals with Gwinnett County Public Library and new Gateway development on Buford Hwy for a shared parking agreement with their planned garages. Paid Gwinnett $4 million for this, not sure of amount to private developer but similar. Intended to address Downtown/Lillian Webb Park event parking constraints. Make sure there are signs directing people here once it’s built.
GOAL 4: Maintain a vibrant economy and continue to facilitate job growth
Business recruitment, retention, and expansion initiatives
Implement target industry study and strategic marketing plan
Enhance tourism through filming and visitor engagement initiatives
Develop market analysis tool to help identify and facilitate redevelopment opportunities
Facilitate entrepreneurship and small business start-ups
Attract unique restaurants and shops to diversify downtown businesses
Continue to administer the Downtown Merchants Incentive Loan Program
For number 6, “locally owned” restaurants and shops should be added.
Many businesses have limited hours, which doesn’t help Downtown activation. Committee members think they struggle during Downtown events, because most of the parking is taken up by attendees and there is nowhere for potential patrons to park.
Research and add state program that allows businesses within a defined geography to opt into an additional tax on their business licenses (something like ~$100/yr) to be used for additional event signs, seasonal decorations, etc.
GOAL 5: Further the City’s tradition of strong leadership and a high level of quality services.
Construct a new Gwinnett County Public Library on Buford Hwy
Provide community support for non-native English speaking students and families
Develop a school needs-community resources matching tool
Improve online visibility through SEO and other tools
Continue to invest and utilize smart cities initiatives
Remove number 1, as it is already being done by Gwinnett County
Disseminating information by effective communication
Not all residents have computer access, need to include things like flyers, an additional electronic message board on Buford Highway, banners on the fence outside the Post Office, or plugs on local radio and television stations (esp. Univision)
More multi-lingual communication, including translating the Norcross Times in Spanish
Consider setting up neighborhood information captain system, designated community members for each neighborhood who will help get the word out by picking up/distributing flyers, posting to neighborhood pages, etc.
Cities can also have a page on Nextdoor App
Report should convey a sense of impatience from the community regarding projects that have been planned for a long time and are not being implemented in a timely manner (e.g. parking study, Beaver Ruin Creek Greenway)
At the conclusion of this discussion, we encouraged the committee to continue thinking on these work program items as well as the Goals and Policies. We extend that suggestion to you as well. If you have any comments, leave one below or contact City Staff or the project team.
An Open House will take place on November 15th at Summerour Middle School from 6-8. Stop by to view draft materials and let us know your thoughts.
Gary Brace, David Murray, David Stoniecki, Sonia Lopez, L.A. Bonds, Josh Bare, Matt Myers, Liz Knab, Tracy Rye, and Robert Patrick. Mayor Craig Newton stopped by.