Beaver Ruin Study Makes the News

The Gwinett Daily Posthighlighted TSW’s work in Gwinnett County.

Task force: More homeowners, less renters would boost area
by Bryan Brooks – Staff Writer
Gwinett Daily Post
June 21, 2004

LAWRENCEVILLE — More parks, more sidewalks, more homeowners and less renters are some of the ways a team of consultants would begin to revitalize neighborhoods in the Beaver Ruin area.

Those were among several recommendations the consultants presented Thursday to the county Revitalization Task Force, which must devise a plan for reversing the fortunes of a 10-square-mile swath of land between Norcross and Lilburn.

That plan, along with one for the U.S. Highway 78 commercial corridor between Snellville and DeKalb County, and a commercial area around Gwinnett Place Mall, will be forwarded to the County Commission in December.

The most challenging area to rejuvenate will be the Beaver Ruin area, consultants said. Two-thirds of the area’s residents are renters; a problem with crime — both real and perceived — hangs over the area; and traffic threatens pedestrians and scares away shoppers.

Also, the area, which includes Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road, has a diverse population that must buy into the rejuvenation effort, task force members said.

“We’ve got an area that is going down the toilet,” said task force member Mark Williams. “I hate to put it that way,” he added.

To reverse that trend, the county needs to lure investment to the area, including developers and business owners, the consultants said.

To that end, the county should stabilize the neighborhoods and create a variety of revitalization zoning districts that permit higher density, mixed-use development in “town centers.”

Each town center would serve as the focal point of the surrounding neighborhoods. When combined, the centers and the neighborhoods should form a pedestrian-friendly village of sorts, the consultants said.

In the residential neighborhoods themselves, nothing more dense than small-lot homes should be allowed, the consultants said, based on feedback from residents.

“People were very clear that within the neighborhoods, they don’t want townhomes, but they would be willing to support a little bit more density if it looks good and is compatible with what’s already there,” said Caleb Racicot, a consultant with Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates.

Although it covers 10 square miles, the study focused on six neighborhoods: Liberty Heights, Mitchell Road, Beaver Ridge, Tech Drive, Harbins Road and Singleton Road, and Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Singleton Road.

A Norcross resident who attended the Revitalization Task Force meeting at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center said he liked what he heard during the 45-minute presentation.

“I like it and I think it’s good,” said Al Karnitz, who lives in “old Norcross,” which is the residential area around that city’s downtown.

Karnitz, though, said whatever strategy the county comes up with will not work unless the area’s Latino community is involved.

The Revitalization Task Force will spend the next several months digesting the consultants’ report.

The consultants also recommended that the county:

  • Increase the number of zoning compliance officers in the area.
  • Allow police to write code citations.
  • Proactively monitor code compliance, rather than just respond to complaints.
  • Eliminate the notice of violation requirement before a citation can be written.
  • Promote the formation and reactivation of homeowners associations.
  • Establish a “Neighborhood Deputies Program” to train residents to monitor code violations and notify the county.
  • Protect residential areas from commercial encroachment.
  • Permit the redevelopment of “marginal” homes along major streets into high-quality townhomes or duplexes.
  • Encourage more churches to make their facilities available for community functions.
  • Encourage minority entrepreneurship and economic mobility by developing small-scale business incubator space in former big-box stores.
  • Increase open space and recreational opportunities.
  • Create a 133-acre community park on an undeveloped parcel at Interstate 85 and Satellite Boulevard.
  • Build more sidewalks.
  • Improve bus service to the area and erect bus shelters.
  • Install a landscaped median on Jimmy Carter Boulevard and other major roadways.
  • Continue existing efforts to target crime.