Roswell’s plan for parks along Chattahoochee River moves ahead

The Roswell River Parks Master Plan proposes a multi-purpose facility for the Ace Sand property on the Chattahoochee River. Photo: CITY OF ROSWELL

Whatever changes coronavirus may bring to city budgets, Roswell City Council is moving ahead with an investment in greenspace along the Chattahoochee River.

At its Monday meeting, the City Council agreed to pay an architectural firm up to $295,000 to design plans for a city-owned property, the former Ace Sand Company, near St. Andrew Catholic Church on Riverside Road.

The location is one of several in its Roswell River Parks Master Plan, which calls for development of several city parks along the Chattahoochee, from Don White Park near the Ga. 400 overpass at Riverside Road south to Willeo Park near Willeo and Timber Ridge roads. The plan was developed in 2016, but the design will be the first step in implementing the plan.

Roswell City Council wants to develop the property, which will cost about $15 million. The site, once a sand and gravel business, could become an active park with fitness trails, an event space, parking lot and storm water gardens.

In a split vote, council members awarded the design contract to Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners of Atlanta.

Councilmen Mike Palermo and Marcelo Zapata questioned the decision to hire the firm before the city's budget review, which is scheduled to take place in May. Like other municipalities across Georgia and the U.S., city officials expect a decrease in revenue because of the unexpected coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that waiting a few weeks makes total sense to me,” said Zapata. “I [am] taking into consideration the special situation that we are living in.”

Zapata voted against hiring the firm this month. Palermo abstained from voting, saying he supports hiring the firm but wanted the council to wait until after the budget review.

Design costs were already included in the city’s fiscal year 2020 budget, but for a lesser amount of money, $282,000.

In all, the design costs will be funded with about $198,000 from the hotel and motel revenue, $65,000 from impact fees and $32,000 from the city’s general fund.

A 2018 economic outlook for riverfront projects predicted they could bring in construction jobs, sales tax revenue, and as well as revenue from park activities.

Other sites in the plan include Don White Park, Azalea Park, Riverwalk Trail, Riverside Park, Wells Tract, Garrard Landing and Willeo Park. The total cost to build out the master plan project is $35 million. The Ace Sand site is the biggest expense because of the new building and the need to develop the property, said Jeffrey Leatherman, Roswell’s director of recreation and parks. The other properties involve more rehab work than new construction, he said.

Before Monday’s vote, Mayor Lori Henry urged the council members to continue to be forward thinking and approve the design firm hire.

“The River Parks Master Plan is probably one of the most important projects we will ever see in Roswell,” said Council member Matt Judy. “This project will be an economic help when we come out of this.”