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The Sugar Hill City Council said goodbye and thank you to Mayor Steve Edwards during his final meeting on Monday, Dec. 13, at City Hall.

After the standard opening and approvals, Edwards issued a proclamation regarding Tripp Atkinson. Atkinson has been a pastor at Sugar Hill Church since 2014, as well as serving as chaplain for the athletic teams of Lanier High School and participating in a number of their programs and events. The mayor said, “Tripp is a Longhorn for life, and he’ll be deeply missed by the members of Sugar Hill Church as well as his Lanier family … thank you, Tripp.” Mayor Edwards concluded by proclaiming that Dec. 13, 2021, be known as Tripp Atkinson Day.

Next, council member Marc Cohen recognized the Lanier cluster Teachers of the Year for 2021-2022. 

“We can build, and we can do all kinds of things, but if it isn’t for the schools, we really don’t have a community,” he said. 

Cohen personally thanked Cynthia Bennett, Margaret Tontillo, Melissa Neely, Angelique Sharpe and Jordan Brannen for their outstanding work in and out of the classroom. He awarded those who were able to attend with a plaque, and they took photos with the council, their families, and the principals from their respective schools.

After the awards and proclamations, the city attorney, council members, city clerk, city manager and youth council all made their reports, most of which were in regard to Edwards’ retirement. Everyone expressed their gratitude and respect for the mayor of eight years who led Sugar Hill through one of its most prosperous periods of growth in the city’s history. They emphasized what an honor it has been to serve the community alongside him and what an inspiration he has been to all of them and to the city as a whole.

“It’s just been an incredible journey,” Edwards said during his report. “It’s not just my vision, it’s our vision and what we did as a team.” 

Edwards reciprocated his colleagues’ appreciation and praised their tireless work and innovation over the years. 

“I’m looking forward to Brandon (Hembree) sitting in the seat because I love that guy,” Edwards said, “and he’s going to do amazing things with this city.”

In council business, members heard a proposal by Planning Director Kaipo Awana regarding the rezoning of a 27.68 acre lot on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from general business to medium density mixed residential for the purpose of constructing a multi-family residential development. The developers also spoke in favor of their project, noting they had already agreed to meet and even exceed the city’s nine conditions including a $50,000 contribution to the Greenway project.

Despite a thorough presentation and words of approval by Cohen, council member Taylor Anderson made a motion to deny based on the location of the lot, which he did not see as entirely suitable for residential use. Councilman Nicholas Greene seconded the motion, and it was passed in a four to one vote with Cohen remaining the only supporter of the development.

Awana also presented a proposal to rezone a parcel of land on Hillcrest Drive from medium density single-family residential and agriculture forest to medium density single-family residential for the purpose of building a townhome subdivision. Council members Cohen and Anderson expressed some concern about the effect this development would have on traffic given Hillcrest is a commonly complained about area of the city. Awana said a traffic study was in progress, but the results would not be available until the next meeting in January.

New council members Roszel and Thatcher expressed additional concerns about traffic and discussed a motion to table, but Cohen had already proposed a motion to approve, which was seconded by Anderson. After some discussion during which Cohen expressed his thoughts that the traffic study would not provide any information that couldn’t be reasonably inferred already, the motion to approve passed with a four to one vote, with Roszel the sole vote against the rezoning.

The council then moved on to the 2022 Proposed Operating and Capital Improvement Budget, which was presented by City Manager Paul Radford, who spoke extensively on the effective use of Sugar Hill’s budget in 2021, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also joined by Finance Director Cindy Pugh and Assistant City Manager Troy Besseche, who assisted in outlining the city’s strong financial position, as well as ways to improve in 2022. The motion to approve the 2022 budget passed unanimously.

The final item on the agenda was to accept a guaranteed maximum price for an ECenter event and conference space, which the council also unanimously approved.

Following the meeting, Edwards said, “I just think it was a good run. I’m blessed with such a great group to work with, and I got to do a lot of things that, in a short period of time, most people would dream of. So it’s been a good 18 years … Building a community has been a dream of mine for a long time, and again, I’m just fortunate to be around this group to get it done.” 

FEATURED PHOTO ABOVE: Sugar Hill Mayor Pro Tem Taylor Anderson presents retiring Mayor Steve Edwards a parting gift during a city council meeting on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, at Sugar Hill City Hall. Photo by Chris Bellows

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