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Planning Success Stories

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Banks County Gateway Corridor/ Banks Crossing

The 2008 Banks County Comprehensive Plan included several goals related to community ambitions for the I-85 corridor through the southeastern part of the county, as well as the adjoining US 441 and Martin Bridge Road intersections. This area already featured prominent regional commercial activity and represented the best opportunity for the county to attract more business and industry while minimizing the impact to other, more rural, parts of the region. As such, Banks County established objectives for fostering the corridors as specific character areas designated for growth as a commercial and social gateway and an adjoining office/light industrial park.

The result of all these efforts is the early realization of development forms matching the ambitions for the gateway corridor, as well as zoning and utility improvement plans actively being used in the courting of new business and property redevelopment. Local response has been very positive, which is a strong sign for a rural community that has traditionally shunned progressive land use planning. Now Banks County is involved in targeted marketing for the future growth based on the plans laid out for the area.

Their comprehensive plan stated goals for this area that were aimed at enhancing various aspects of their community, from economic development to landscaping to commercial or industrial site development. In addressing these goals, the community adopted or updated local ordinances that, when implemented, would result in the development they envisioned for themselves. The County added design guidelines for development within select character areas along this primary corridor to make it more attractive to industry and which would create a gateway along the 441/Banks Crossing corridor. The intention was to ensure uses and development within this corridor would coincide with long-term ambitions for job growth while preserving the sought-after character of the area.
Banks County Comprehensive Plan

Blairsville Redevelopment

Several objectives in the Blairsville comprehensive plan center on downtown redevelopment, from the need to create a downtown master plan, to establishing a Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Blairsville’s downtown revolves around the Union County Courthouse and the nearby Blairsville City Hall, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is the center of activity for many local events. The Blairsville DDA, created in 2005 as called for in the comprehensive plan, quickly went to work addressing the downtown redevelopment activities identified in the plan. And, their efforts have been quite successful: Blairsville became a Better Hometown in 2007 (now Main Street); A major downtown streetscape project has been completed, and two historic buildings on the square are being completely restored. These buildings are vital to the growth of downtown Blairsville and should be complete soon. The DDA is continuing to find new ways to revitalize and reinvigorate downtown Blairsville. Comprehensive Plan

Clarkesville - Greenway Project

The Clarkesville Greenway was called for in the Habersham County plan (which includes Clarksville) since before 2008. Today, those plans have been realized. The Clarkesville Greenway is a 1 ½ mile loop within 19 acres of green space. The loop takes you by the Soque River as well as by a constructed wetland and a stream bank restoration project. Adjacent to the Greenway is the Greenway Garden, a community garden with 28 plots, and Habersham County’s first public organic community garden. It provides these plots to local gardeners to grow their own organic vegetables, either in a plot or in the recently added greenhouse.
The continued development of the greenway is important to Clarkesville and Habersham County for several reasons, but the most important of these is economic development: tourism creates jobs, and greenways create tourism, so by developing the greenway, Clarkesville is also contributing to the economic vitality of the community. But the greenway also contributes other benefits to the community: natural resource conservation; alternate transportation modes through provision of walking trails throughout the county; and providing the community garden on land adjoining the greenway.
Justin Ellis
Executive Director
Soque River Watershed Association

Clarkesville Preservation Corridor

The Clarkesville 2008 comprehensive plan made numerous references to the importance of the community’s sense of place for both the residents and their local tourist economy. The community is concerned about the impact of commercial development along its main entry corridor. They understand that the protection of their scenic corridors, farmlands and views of mountains and streams is important to maintaining their rural quality of life and will enable increased tourism. To achieve these goals, the City adopted an amendment to their zoning ordinance creating a preservation corridor that includes this primary transportation route from the intersection on highways 44/197/17 through town to the Square. The corridor has strict sign and tree protection ordinances as well as ordinances designed to retain the rural character of the town. An overlay district was created with five character areas, each with specific guidelines: downtown commercial area, regular commercial area, green space area, redevelopment area and residential area.
Cornelia Initiatives

Cornelia has seen a lot of success implementing their plan. Their 2002-2007 Short Term Work Program included work activities focused on downtown development- become a Better Hometown and take the initial steps such as hiring a manager. These were accomplished. That work program also called for several activities to improve and enhance the City’s water plant. As a result of these planning efforts, Cornelia has become a Water First community (2010), they created an Opportunity Zone, and they remain a successful participant in the Main Street Program.
Cornelia's Mud Creek Greenway and Hodges Street Culvert

In its policies section of its 2008 comprehensive plan, the City of Cornelia states "Creation of recreational facilities and set-aside of greenspace are important to our community." In its most recent plan update, the City cited the need to improve a major culvert and pursue a greenway on vacant lots just south of downtown, including the restoration of stream banks along approximately 300' of (South Fork) Mud Creek. The Community Work Program specifically called for the development of the Mud Creek Greenway and the City’s improvement plans for downtown called for various improvements for managing stormwater and providing new park space. Thanks in part to funds from a 319 Grant from DNR, the City completed a $200,000 renovation of the Hodges Street Mud Creek culvert and stream bank restoration project resulting in a new linear park, complete with educational placards and benches, in July of 2014. The project was warmly received and has greatly improved the management of flooding along this stretch of the creek, as well as reducing erosion and sedimentation.  
Dillard is preserving the past

The City of Dillard created a cultural center in the former Dillard Community School and Cannery buildings. Both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The cannery was constructed in 1935 and served for generations as a community gathering place to preserve the fruits and vegetables grown locally. The North Georgia Community Players and Dillard City Hall share space in the rehabilitated old Dillard School, which serves as a center of activity for tourists and residents of the region. This project was first envisioned in the city’s comprehensive plan and the 2006 comprehensive plan states that the Dillard School has been converted into City Hall and a Community Center. Dillard, City of
Forsyth County Trail Network

Forsyth County has illustrated in its comprehensive plans that the development of trails and protection of open space is an important step in providing additional recreational opportunities for its citizens, for health reasons as well as to augment the County’s economic strengths through an enhanced quality of life. Their planning efforts fostered what is now an extensive trail network linking many neighborhoods, local parks and, in the future, to connect to the Alpharetta section of the Big Creek Greenway. At completion, the Forsyth County portion of the Big Creek Greenway will be over 15 miles long. Funding for the greenspace acquisition comes from a voter approved greenspace bond as well as private donations. Comprehensive Plan
Gainesville Downtown Strategies: a PlanFirst Success Story

As stated in the City of Gainesville’s Community agenda of 2012 (Gainesville 2030 Comprehensive Plan), downtown Gainesville is the traditional economic heart of the community as well as the seat of City government. To that end, the comprehensive plan focused many strategies and implementation measures to supporting and enhancing activities in and around the Downtown/Midtown core of the community.

Continued economic viability of its historic downtown is a priority of the City of Gainesville, as evident by its commitment to developing a detailed strategic plan to guide growth, redevelopment, and innovation in the urban central core. Using an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Economic Development Grant for Non-construction, the City of Gainesville contracted with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) to develop strategies to strengthen, sustain and expand downtown Gainesville. After a ten-month planning process, the Downtown Gainesville Renaissance Strategic Vision & Plan is complete and implementation is underway.

Gainesville’s Downtown Strategic Plan clarifies what resources are required to reach the community’s vision for Downtown – a walkable, connected downtown that preserves the rich heritage and character of Gainesville’s past while embracing a more vibrant future. The plan sets forth a series of action items which outline the “what, when and who” critical to strengthening Downtown Gainesville within four broad categories – connectivity, programming, design and economic development. Efforts intended to implement action items under all four categories have been initiated, including streetscaping projects and “greening the moat” or major roadways surrounding Gainesville’s Central Business District (connectivity), display lighting on downtown buildings and public art throughout the central core (programming), review of model ordinances for downtown architectural and site design on vacant tracts (design), and market analysis for mixed-use development on publicly-owned property.

As well, the City opened its “Upper Lanier Water Trail” which is a 14-mile section of Lake Lanier and a continuation of the “Upper Chattahoochee River Water Trail” that connects five lake parks. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2030 Public Art Committee (on which the City plays an active, integral role) created a public art walking tour brochure, drafted guidelines for the installation of public art, and initiated the “Free Range Art” mural project which involves a call for artists to have their selected works of art printed on an 8-foot by 8-foot marine canvas and attached to the facades of buildings in Gainesville’s Downtown and along its Midtown Greenway.

Gainesville Midtown Revitalization

In 2002, the City of Gainesville initiated a study of its Midtown area, largely to determine the need for, and feasibility of, redevelopment in that area. Following this study, the City developed a master plan for the Midtown area, including establishing a Tax Allocation District, an overlay zone and developing a redevelopment plan. These items have been included in, and addressed by, the City’s comprehensive plans since 2002. The Midtown overlay is intended to promote jobs and economic prosperity in the defined area. As a result of the redevelopment of this district, several activities have resulted in transformation of the Midtown district. These activities included: a streetscape which included tearing up old streets, sidewalks and parking lots and creating pedestrian and bicycle paths, new pavement and walls, benches and light poles; a pedestrian walkway to connect the downtown area to midtown, across Jesse Jewel Parkway; several buildings were renovated with the addition of cafes, boutiques, art galleries and a two-story gym. Additionally, a two mile long greenway connects the square with Lake Lanier, via a network of trails within a wooded creek bed. In the future this trail will connect with downtown and eventually run all the way to Oakwood and the UNG campus. Community Development Department

Hart County Parks and Recreation Enhancements

Hart County’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan was called for in the 2007 comprehensive plan, and further identified as an activity in the 2012 update to their work program. Hart County's Parks and Recreation Master Plan called for the development of new park space and ball fields as well as the development of trails where possible. In 2014 the County was awarded Recreational Trails grant funding to create a multi-phase greenway trail system connecting Hart County Botanical Gardens and Hart County Recreation & Sports Complex. Future phases include a trail surrounding new addition to Sports Complex (opening August 2015) and Clay Street Park. The trail is approximately 3,400' long of paved asphalt and lies within close proximity of residential neighborhoods and not too far from downtown Hartwell. The overall effort to upgrade recreational facilities is considered critical to the community's growth as Hart County seeks to restore the local economy after the recession and the loss of several businesses throughout the past decade. Additional plans call on linking the trail with a new trail currently under development in downtown Hartwell.
Lula Downtown Revitalization

The City of Lula is a small community in northeastern Hall County with a classic downtown stretching along an active railroad line between Gainesville and Toccoa. Beginning with planning efforts conceived in the early 2000's, the City and its residents pursued efforts to revitalize their small main street in the hopes of luring and sustaining commerce in the city's core. As a result of several goals identified within their comprehensive plan and subsequent updates, the City established two main objectives to enhance the appeal, usefulness and safety of their downtown.

The first was the development of a Veterans Park as a central gathering place in the center of town. As part of the vision for improving downtown, previous versions of the Comprehensive Plan called for development of a new park or central gathering space. A property located at a key intersection was identified as available and viable for adaptive reuse as a park. Plans were conceived for the modest property to include a memorial wall, fountain, benches and other amenities that would provide a social gathering space as well as monuments to honor local heroes. The new Veterans Park was eventually realized in 2010 with the aid of a Transportation Enhancement grant and other outside funding assistance, completing a vision identified as part of past planning procedures for the City.

Another objective stated in their comprehensive plans was to undertake Main Street Streetscape Improvements. Previous iterations of the Lula Comprehensive Plan identified several opportunities to enhance the historic downtown district. The sidewalks along Main street were in disrepair and failed to properly connect with the residential neighborhood immediately adjacent. Further, the lack of any amenities discouraged pedestrian use and detracted from the appeal of hosting events downtown.

This was accomplished as several small projects identified in the City’s Short Term Work Program. The City updated historical records of the properties, received two presentations providing development guidelines and improvement ideas, and then developed both a streetscape design plan (through DCA and the Georgia Trust for Historic Places) and updated land use management measures to improve local structures over time. Eventually phase one of the streetscape plan was completed in 2011, providing repairs and intersection improvements as well as the first of several new benches, planters and other amenities. Funding assistance for Phases 2 and 3 have also been secured and are planned for completion within the next 2 years, which will mean the entire commercial run of Lula's Main Street will have been greatly enhanced.
Dennis Bergin
Lula, City of
Young Harris Downtown Initiative

The City of Young Harris requested assistance from DCA’s OPEM on implementation of several items in its comprehensive plan, particularly the development and redevelopment of the city’s center. A DCA assistance team spent several days in Young Harris, and provided design suggestions and financing alternatives to the City to help move the development forward. As a further part of the process, the City has worked with local merchants, business owners and Young Harris College staff to create an organization devoted to development in downtown in order to increase tax revenues and jobs, as well as provide entertainment and shopping for local resident and students and staff at the College. Andrea Gibby
Young Harris, City of


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