Published Thursday, November 15, 2012
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
The Blueprints for Successful Communities project in Moreland has developed some specific potential projects aimed at clearing the town green and connecting all parts of town.
The town green proposal would involve moving the Erskine Caldwell Birthplace and adjusting the location of the playground – and even possibly someday moving the fire station. The connectivity proposal includes several facets, including the planting of large native trees along Highway 27/29.
Katherine Moore, Johanna McCrehan and Leah Barnett from the Georgia Conservancy presented aspects of the proposal during a meeting at Moreland Town Hall Tuesday night. Mayor Josh Evans, Councilman Allyn Bell and City Clerk Jimmy Haynes attended the meeting, along with about 20 others.
Though some concerns were raised about various aspects of the proposal, the overall response was positive.
Brian Loper said he and his family moved to Moreland because of what has been happening in town — and the quality of Moreland Elementary School. “I think it’s a good thing,” he said of the plan, particularly talking about paths and walking areas included in the proposal.
“I hope you guys drive on and do it,” he told the local officials. “This is what attracted us.”
Local resident Joyce Evans told the Georgia Conservancy team that she had been to all the workshops in the Blueprints series. “I want to personally thank all of you for all your help and all that you have done,” she said. “Y’all have done an excellent job.”
Blueprints uses a team of graduate students from the Georgia Institute of Technology, who visited the town. “They help us with a lot of original suggestions. We kind of fine tune them,” Barnett said.
“A lot of hard work has been put in by the Georgia Tech students and the Georgia Conservancy,” the mayor said. To pay for such a study “would have cost a fortune,” he said.
McCrehan gave an overview of the report. She said attendees at the community meetings “talked about a lack of civic identity” and a desire to see Moreland continue as an independent place.
She said the need for sidewalks was also discussed. She spoke of the school as a community asset and said finding a way to “get people to and from (the school), especially students” was a need addressed in the plan.
She said moving the Caldwell home and the playground will open up “ways that green can become” a place for community events and experiences. A bandstand of some type was suggested for the green.
McCrehan noted the fire station is a Coweta County facility, but said an eventual move of that facility would open “a good corner chunk of the town green.” She said taking steps to open the greenspace would enable the square to become “Moreland’s identity.”
With regard to connectivity, McCrehan said “the safety and the access” – getting people across the highway – are keys. Having “stop for pedestrians” signs and new crosswalks would help.
She said having “something atypical” for the crosswalk design would be good. She said a pawprint – drawing on the Moreland Elementary School mascot, the wildcats – was an option.
Students “would take ownership of this” if it had a connection to their school, McCrehan said.
McCrehan also talked about “what a tree canopy starts to do and starts to bring.” She said having a tree canopy would signify “you’re in a special place where people care,” she said, adding that bicycle paths could also be part of that project.
New subdivision regulations should address “where is appropriate for a little more density,” McCrehan said. She noted the Tech students identified streets which are “getting a little more traffic” than others.
Moore outlined aspects of the Blueprints process that are already happening and gave ideas of costs for some aspects of the project. She noted Precision Planning is working with the town on sidewalks through a Transportation Enhancement Act grant.
Mayor Evans said Precision Planning may also be able to do a study of drainage at the town square while the sidewalk project is under way. “I love it when the pieces go together – kind of fall in into place,” he said.
Moore noted the playground is being revamped.
“Mayor Evans was instrumental in getting the county arborist to visit the town and make a report on threes in public areas,” Moore said. That report has been received and outlines trees that need to be removed, pruned or treated.
Moore said the relocation of the Caldwell house will cost some $10,000. She then said there would probably be $60,000-$100,000 in restoration costs.
Donations, volunteer labor and other help might lessen some costs.
She estimated costs for new sidewalks at $100,000. New crosswalks would cost less than $5,000 and “pedestrian crossing” signs about $3,000.
The Blueprints plan calls for planting 200 trees at a cost of about $500 each for a total cost of $100,000. Moore said she believes grants will be available to help with that cost.
Local resident Emily Wilbert noted chestnut oaks were planted in Moreland decades ago. Moore said that was important information to consider in the tree canopy project. Moore said she likes the idea of “planning for the future, but honoring the past.”
She said $100,000 would be needed for a topographic study of the green and $5,000 for a detailed design of that tract.
Costs for the bandstand remain undetermined. Size, materials and other factors would impact those costs. Moore urged town leaders to “keep in mind longterm maintenance costs” saying some expenditures up front can save lots of money as the years unfold.
“Whatever happens in the green... you’ve got to understand what the stormwater issue is and address changing that and improving that,” Moore said.
While the town will need “some design done by a professional” for the square, that cost will be relatively inexpensive because the designer will be looking at “a very small, contained area,” Moore said.
Moore said it is important for projects to be done in conjunction with local tourism efforts. She also said she believes Moreland has enough volunteers to undertake several projects at once.
Moore said the cost of the town plan could be determined through discussions with regional planners or county officials.
Local resident Nancy McLain expressed concern that moving the Caldwell home would make it further from other tourism activity. Right now it is “so close for them to just walk over” from the mill, she said.
Moore said building the God’s Little Acre site as another tourism node will be a plus. “You want to give folks several hours of things to do when they come to your community,” she said.
“It would be a shame not to make that (Caldwell) a jewel of God’s Little Acre,” Moore said. “You’re beginning to build an activity hub there.”
She said a tourism hub downtown and a second one at the garden can “support each other.”
Local planner Lynne Miller was among those attending the meeting. “One thing that is a real asset here is this mill,” she said, referring to the historic building that houses the town hall and meeting and museum space.
“The town has been such a good steward of the building,” Miller said. She spoke in favor of “anything they keep doing to preserve the mill, repair parts of the mill that need to be repaired.”
Barnett gave an overview of the Blueprints project. She noted that a number of towns in Georgia have been through the process. One of the first was Senoia – with their Blueprints study coming before an economic renaissance in the east Coweta town.
“That’s been an interesting thing to look at – our Senoia project of 15-16 years ago and our Moreland project today,” she said.
She explained that the conservancy uses expertise of students and professors at Tech, its own staff and a panel of advisers including architects, landscape architects, engineers, local officials, homebuilders and experts with such organizations as the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association of County Commissioners – Georgia.
Moore said the Blueprints study will give Moreland some tools and plans that can help the town as it grows. “As growth happens, it’s not happening to you,” she said. “You’re directing it as it happens.”