Historic Crabapple lies 25 miles north of Atlanta in the north Fulton County city of Milton. Once an isolated farming community of houses, a general store, and civic buildings, Crabapple experienced development pressure in recent decades that threatened its character and sense-of-place. In response, several initiatives were undertaken in the 1990s to guide growth. Because Crabapple was part of unincorporated Fulton County at the time, these included County-initiated area plans and a zoning overlay aimed at protecting the local character. Both efforts successfully shaped growth for nearly two decades, albeit in a cumbersome way that subjected projects to an extensive, uncertain, and inflexible approval process. Following the incorporation of Milton in late 2006, attention again focused on the future of Crabapple, which many viewed the downtown for the new city. A charrette was undertaken to create a new vision for what the area could be, and lay a foundation for achieving it. A key charrette outcome was the need for a new type of zoning in the area that would codify the public’s vision, streamline the development process, and provide greater development flexibility, within reason.
For nearly a year TSW worked with Crabapple residents, businesses, property owners, and City boards to explore and prepare a locally-calibrated SmartCode that would codify the Crabapple vision. Because Crabapple was only partially developed, this included extensive modifications to the SmartCode to address both infill and new community conditions. The effort also included one of Georgia’s first uses of transfer of development rights to preserve farmland. In addition, it incorporated a regulating plan, customized Transect zones, architectural standards, a design review board, and coordination with a concurrent historic preservation effort.