NWGRC leads meeting to work on County Plan

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Citizens and leaders gather around tables with plans and layouts of the county to discuss their opinions on what to plan for in the future.

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC) is continuing its work alongside the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners as the official meeting for stakeholders was held this week to consider and add to the Comprehensive Plan.

The continuing effort from last year’s discussions over the plan are now reaching out to the farmers, business owners, developers, and all citizens as ‘stakeholders’ in the plan’s development.

The meeting had posters and layouts of the county printed and mounted to tables and walls including the results from the county’s recent survey. Attendees were encouraged with pens and markers to raise and address issues and questions on these posters for the authorities to consider in the continuing process to construct more than “just a document to be approved and put in the drawer,” as it has been called by Gilmer Post Commissioner Dallas Miller.

NWGRC Assistant Planning Director Ethan Calhoun.

The NWGRC’s representative and Assistant Planning Director, Ethan Calhoun was on hand as well to speak with citizens and inform them on the area through the available statistics and documents.

Moving forward, the NWGRC and Gilmer BOC will consolidate this and other meetings as the move towards the final adoption of the 5-year Comprehensive Plan later this year. The document is to be used as a guide for county as to the needs and wants of the public for projects in the county.

Additionally, Calhoun told FYN that the plan is more than just a county guide, but a necessary step for acquiring grants and other state funding for those projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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County survey results released

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – With 2,091 people responding, the recent Gilmer County survey, put out by the Board of Commissioners for the comprehensive plan, is seeing the tallied results available for the public.

Though the results have already been mentioned in commissioner meetings in June and July, the official results were released by Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson, who is spearheading the revamped work on the plan after the board decided in late 2018 and early 2019 to change the way they look at, utilize, and prepare the overall Comprehensive Plan.

The survey presented citizens, part-time residents, and Gilmer workers with questions concerning the county’s future including topics on growth, recreation, and agriculture.

While the majority, 64 percent, of responses came from the adults age 31 – 65, another large chunk, 24 percent, came from ages 65 and older, leaving only 12 percent for age groups under 30.

As the county continues to move on the growth, many of those who responded are hoping to see more commercial retail and dining options within the county while the vast majority, 72.2 percent, want that growth to extend into additional workforce housing.

Recreation was a little less clear cut with every outdoor option scoring over 40 percent support. Additionally, internet access for business and recreation is still seeing 43 percent either without access or with inadequate access.

Most of our community is in agreement on the topic of Agriculture as 83.4 percent want to protect agricultural land as the community grows. A subpoint of one of the questions also saw a far greater number of citizens wanting the agritourism such as wineries and similar farms available across the county in both commercial and agricultural areas as opposed to the much smaller group wanting it restricted to commercial areas.

Be sure to see the full results offered by the county as well.

 

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Planning to make a plan in the BOC

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners is taking steps to make changes to how it deals with something that has been called “useless” and “a document you approve then throw in a desk.”

While the Commissioner meeting spent a large amount of time on citizen’s concerns over Rainbow Lake, the Commissioner also spent a large portion of time discussing their future with the county’s Joint Comprehensive Plan.

The annual update to the Community Work Program and Capital Improvements Element within the Joint Comprehensive Plan Document was how the agenda item was worded, yet it grew into much more with input from both Post Commissioners Travis Crouch and Dallas Miller.

With a joint meeting to be set for input from the community involving the cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay, Crouch suggested there are far more entities that need to be involved in the process as a whole and in that meeting.

Miller noted in the Regular Session that he was disappointed that there is no resolution needed on the plan. Attempting to make a point, he clarified that as a strategic planning document, it doesn’t address the counties highest priorities, its infrastructure, or anything about revenue or funding for these projects.

Miller went on to say that there are many things about the document that needs to be changed to become more useful to the county instead of something the board does to maintain its qualified status for grants and government funding sources. He also noted that the document does not commit the county to anything listed on it.

Counterpointing Miller’s discussion, County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris stated that he thought the fact that the document held no legal commitment was a good thing as it isolated the regional commission from the county in that aspect. However, he did note that the county does commit itself to projects on its own and nothing would stop the county from doing those things.

Crouch also commented further saying the document was so frustrating to him as it is wasted potential as the county is, in fact, is addressing the issue last minute. Instead of just saying “here it is,” he wants more involvement and more usage of the document.

While the Joint Comprehensive Plan is not useless, as it is required for certified status and helps in grant pursuit, the feeling from both Post Commissioners indicated they wanted more. A feeling that has been voiced numerous times over past years.

Though the county still needs to move forward on this item now, Paris suggested an alternative to waiting until next year to address concerns saying, “We have to do this document and we’ll do it and we’ll get it out of the way. But there is not a thing in the world that stops us from creating our own document that does everything that you said, Travis. We can have our own plan, and it will undoubtedly include an awful lot of whats on [the Joint Comprehensive Plan] and some things that, perhaps, are not. That can be our plan and we can commit to it, and we can do whatever we want to with it.”

Attempting to include all the stakeholders while addressing the concerns of usefulness and commitment from the board, the document could be used to create the necessary document for the Joint Comprehensive Plan.

With both Post Commissioners indicating an interest in the concept, Paris suggested they take the next few months to begin the process to create the county’s own “plan.” While no direct action was taken, all three commissioners seemed agreed to pursue the plan.

Also taking time from the Commissioners’ meeting was a rezoning request asking to change a property on Laurel Hill Lane from R-1 Residential to A-1 Agricultural. The applicant, Jason Rice, and his lawyer, Jeb Chatham, indicated at the meeting his intention to construct an outbuilding and hosting of animals on the property. Paris questioned if he was aware of last year’s changes to hobby livestock in Residential areas of the county.

Rice said it was more about the freedom and flexibility of an Agricultural Zoning. He wanted to have more freedom to do what he wanted without worrying about the rules and restrictions of R-1. He stated he didn’t fully have it figured out, but what he wanted was the flexibility to do more.

Ultimately, the zoning failed to gain a motion from the board and was then was denied 3-0 with Paris reasserting his statements from previous meetings to protect landowners who researched and did their due diligence to find a residential area and expect it not to change. It was noted in their work session that while the Planning and Zoning board recommended approval, there was opposition and a letter sent to the Chairman in opposition to the zoning changes.

Their meeting continued on as the commissioners appointed Ron Cheslocke to the Keep Gilmer Beautiful Committee.

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