Braselton tackles explosive growth with new rules for development

In preparation for expected growth over the next decades, Braselton is working to overhaul its development code. (Courtesy Town of Braselton)

In preparation for expected growth over the next decades, Braselton is working to overhaul its development code. (Courtesy Town of Braselton)

Joy Basham spends her Saturdays riding around Braselton on a golf cart along the town’s wide sidewalks, grabbing coffee and stopping at shops with her friends. She moved to Braselton in 2017, drawn by its “hometown feel” and social, tight-knit community.

She is not alone. Almost all of the north metro Atlanta town’s population can be attributed to fresh faces. Divided among the counties of Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson, Braselton has gone from 1,200 residents to nearly 13,000 since the year 2000, resulting in undesired traffic and other unwanted effects of popularity.

Braselton will need to reconcile with its growing pains as more people move to the high-income town. The Atlanta Regional Commission projects the city will add another 7,500 residents by 2045.

To maintain its quaint charm, Braselton is paying planning consultant TSW about $150,000 to remake its development code. The code works as a guidebook, dictating where developers may construct homes, businesses and other facilities. It also determines the appearance, density and size of development.

Braselton hasn’t fully rewritten its development code in almost 20 years. The current one is riddled with redundancies, typos and jargon, with town officials sporadically revising sections of it, said Woody Giles, senior associate at TSW.

TSW aims to get the new code in front of the town council by next year, but not before giving residents a say. The consultant will host a community workshop on May 5, following public forums held in prior months.

A top concern among residents is increased traffic as Braselton continues to expand. With I-85 and several state highways running through it, the town needs to prioritize controlled growth, Basham said.

“We cannot become a bypass,” said Basham, who ran for a town council seat in 2019. “We need to control the types of businesses that would pull people off of the freeway as a stop. We want (Braselton) to be a destination.”

Basham believes the town needs to add more destination spots like lavish Chateau Elan, attract locally owned businesses and repurpose vacant warehouses. The town also needs more greenspaces, Basham said. Town officials agree, as they plan to build a 71-acre park off Ga. 124 in the next few years, said Kevin Keller, planning director of Braselton.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is widening Ga. 211, hopefully starting construction on the next phase by next year, Keller said. While the code determines what kind of development occurs in every part of town, projects like these will help Braselton keep up with more growth, he said.

Besides fixing the confusing language in the code, TSW will ensure it curbs the council’s need to hand out as many zoning variances as in recent years, Giles said. The consultant is tasked with crafting the code to “raise the bar” on development quality, simplify regulations, make sure it matches the comprehensive plan’s vision, balance property rights with community vision and protect open space, he said.

“We want to make sure (the code) is easy to read and legally sound,” he said. “But how development looks or where density happens–all of that is up to the community.”