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Fulton Co. news: Large development planned in Milton

For a group of Milton residents, there’s good news, then there’s more news.

First, the good: Residents in several subdivisions were victorious in their efforts to save landscaped barriers between their homes and Ga. 9 that were threatened by a Georgia Department of Transportation plan to widen the road. They said the barriers protected them from highway noise and nosy pedestrians.

But there’s more: A large redevelopment project proposed across the street may make traffic — and the noise that comes with it — far worse.

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Georgia comes in at No. 19 in a new ranking of happiest states in the US WalletHub looked at 31 key metrics in three main catagories for this study. Georgia finished No. 7 in community and environment. The state was No. 16 in work environment, finishing low in the metric of "income growth." Georgia was No. 25 in emotional and physical well-being, ranking 47th in sports participation.

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The neighbors, many of whom said they moved to the city north of Alpharetta in search of a more rural lifestyle, were happy that their neighborhoods wouldn’t lose the separation from the street. They were less pleased with a proposal that would put a hotel, a theater, 120 apartments and more than 300,000 square feet of office and retail space in what is now a Kohl’s and Target shopping center on Ga. 9. The two anchors would stay. Undeveloped land next door would also be redeveloped for office and restaurants.

“They’re going to cram a lot of stuff in there,” said Ike Yancy, president of the Regency at Windward Square development, who led the charge to get the landscaping saved. “I don’t think we’re particularly in favor of monster developments like that.”

But residents’ voices may not carry much weight this time. The areas are already zoned. Previously, a number of area residents said they had moved to Milton to avoid the kind of development that has come to other parts of the metro area. The city’s vision statement talks about the importance of Milton’s rural heritage.

Yancy said if the project is built as proposed, he expects it to be harder to get in and out of his neighborhood. He also worried about the number of additional people that will be drawn to the area.

That stretch of Ga. 9 had an average of 21,000 vehicles a day in 2016, said Natalie Dale, a GDOT spokesperson. By 2022, it’s expected to have almost 25,000 vehicles daily. GDOT planned to spend $31.5 million to add two more lanes and multi-use trails to 3.1 miles of Ga. 9 in Milton; the 16.9-mile project goes from Cumming to Alpharetta. The cost in Milton will likely change as the engineering plans are altered to accommodate keeping the landscaping, but Dale said she did not have final figures.

The compromise means a buffer wall will be built in front of the berm, and a planned 10-foot-wide trail may not end up being wider than the existing 5-foot sidewalks.

Shannon Ferguson, a spokesperson for Milton, said in an email that the city believes the road compromise is a win-win.

“It indicates a willingness to listen to us that we didn’t think we had,” Yancy said. “It’s tremendous.”

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