Local architect Terry Miller is seeking a new four-year term representing Ward 1 on the Douglasville City Council.
Miller, who is also mayor pro tem, was elected to his current tenure in 2017 without opposition. He also served one term on the council from 2007-11.
This year Miller will face emergency medical technician William Golden for the nonpartisan seat that covers areas south and west of downtown including Arbor Station.
Miller said he believes downtown Douglasville is “fundamentally healthy.”
“But like all downtowns, “It could still use improvement,” he said.
Miller said the city’s master plan addresses many of the downtown area’s weaknesses. The centerpiece of that plan is the new Town Green that he said will “function as the primary gathering and open space for downtown Douglasville.”
“The Green will have an amphitheater that will be a fantastic outdoor concert venue for musical performances, plays, lectures and other such public events,” he said. “The Green will also be anchored on one side by the old jail bridge, which will be turned into an event center. The other side of the Green will be developed into higher end retail and condominiums that will act as a spark for the downtown real estate market.”
Asked whether it’s more important for the city to build new homes and commercial space or rehab existing homes and storefronts, Miller called it “a false choice.”
“Aside from the misguided notion that the city has any control over the private real estate market, all we can do as a council is provide guidance and direction through zoning and development plan approval to encourage a healthy mixture of new construction and renovation of existing structures,” he said. “A truly healthy economy and market demands that you have both.”
On the transportation options in the city, Miller said that because Douglasville is a “bedroom suburb” of Atlanta with a “density much lower than most of the rest of the metropolis that we’re a part of” transportation options will be “much more limited” than other “sister cities in the vicinity.”
“We currently have a number of good transit methods that are mostly underutilized but could be more popularized with better public information on the city and county’s part, being that transit is mostly the responsibility of the county government,” Miller said. “With the dissemination of better information, our van pool, long range busses and local minivan on-call transit operations could be better utilized.”
Asked about the city’s traffic problems, Miller said Douglasville has “traffic challenges” that are “just like virtually every suburban community across the country.”
“Traffic issues like the ones we have cannot be made to go away in an instant but must be resolved through very long range planning that includes increasing the capacity of our feeder roads, encouraging more people to take mass transit where available and encouraging telecommuting when possible,” he said. “Otherwise, the best long term solution is to develop and encourage more walkable communities by providing more economic opportunities and incentives for restaurants, retailers and companies to locate in our downtown or concentrated business zones and adding more sidewalks so that some people would have the option to walk to work or shop rather than drive.”
Asked if he could change one thing in the zoning code, what he would change and why, Miller said that microbreweries and other venues “tend to bring a lot of other desirable types of development with them” when they open in a downtown area.
“Our current zoning is written in a way that limits the opportunities for such entertainment venues and where they can be located,” Miller said. “My goal in the next term is to work with council in opening up more options through the zoning code that would enable these venues to expand their footprint within the commercial districts of our city and bring more of the family type entertainment that comes along with this form of development.”
Miller said the simplest and most effective way to get citizens involved in the city government is to “approach them and engage them personally.” He notes there are numerous committees, stakeholder groups and commissions the city sponsors that are designed to elicit citizen involvement and feedback.
Asked how he would evaluate a hypothetical proposal to build a new piece of public infrastructure like a road or bridge, Miller said that Douglasville has “one of the most talented staffs available to a town of our size.”
“Council normally works with staff currently to evaluate all proposed projects that come before it in order to determine if the project is feasible, cost effective and will provide long term benefit the city’s residents,” Miller said. “Fortunately as well, I have a background in city planning through my education and experience as an architect. I have the ability to evaluate potential projects based on the impact that they would have on our building density, connectivity to the surrounding infrastructure, and the context and usefulness of the function of the project.”
On what he would do to put the city on firmer financial footing, Miller said the city is “currently on firm financial footing” thanks to a “very professional and cooperative city council whose members work very well together.” He notes the city has a balanced budget which is required by law, “good economic incentives that are not onerous on our taxpayers,” and a bond rating of AA.
As to what he would do if he received a $1 million grant for the city to use any way he wanted, Miller said his “priority would be to take a portion of the sum and put it toward salary increases for our employees.” He said the council is already working to increase salaries to “remain competitive with the surrounding communities.”
But he said “a little more like this could give our city an edge in the competition for excellent talent and to maintain the top notch people we already have.” He said the hypothetical $1 million “would have to be divided in a way as to be able to sustain the raises over several years in order to allow for the general fund allotment to catch up so that the raises would be permanent and not temporary.”
Asked what makes Ward 1 unique, he said his ward is the “only ward in the city that is almost wholly comprised of just one neighborhood.”
“While we also contain a few apartment complexes on the periphery and most of the largest retail centers to the west of Atlanta, Ward 1 is almost exclusively the Arbor Station subdivision,” he said. “The true uniqueness of Arbor Station however, lies in the friendly, neighborly character of its residents, its design and the welcoming feel of its rolling streets and tree-shaded homes that give it a rustic quality while still having the convenience of being located in such close proximity to many attractive commercial venues.”