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Athens-Clarke County Septic System Inventory and Education Program

In the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Short Term Work Plan (2014-2018), there is a work activity that states "Collaborate with state agencies to explore the feasibility of a maintenance and monitoring ordinance for onsite wastewater management systems and to educate the public on the proper use and maintenance of septic systems." Aging septic systems are a threat to human health, water quality, and the environment. Athens-Clarke County undertook to solve the issue locally, and address this particular comprehensive plan activity with funds from an EPD 319 Grant in conjunction with the Upper Oconee Water Planning Council.

Athens-Clarke County (ACC) has nineteen stream segments listed on the EPD 303(d) list for fecal coliform contamination. Using funds from a 319 Grant, ACC developed a program to address the issue. The program:

- created a comprehensive inventory of all septic systems, the first of its kind in the State of Georgia, that was used to determine watersheds affected by failing septic systems and determine the target audience for septic maintenance education;
- developed an educational campaign which created and delivered original educational materials to the public;
- developed a sampling and monitoring plan to analyze ACC septic watersheds for fecal coliform and optical brighteners to determine the level of impact septic systems may have on local watersheds and to gage the impact of the education campaign.

This activity also addressed another item in the ACC work program to develop ordinances and other programs to Explore opportunities to amend Athens-Clarke County Code to enhance the protection of natural environmental features such as topography, mature forests, rock outcrops, historic sites and streams. The creation of the septic inventory, education campaign, and the water quality monitoring program has successfully helped ACC understand the impacts of failing septic systems and to work on de-listing impaired streams.

It also demonstrated the lack of septic system knowledge pushing ACC staff to continue the education efforts through the Clarke County Health Department, ACC Stormwater Program and Water Conservation Office. The Septic System inventory and educational materials can be used as a template for communities throughout the state of Georgia. The materials can be previewed in the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Short Term Work Plan (2014-2018), there is a work activity that states Collaborate with state agencies to explore the feasibility of a maintenance and monitoring ordinance for onsite wastewater management systems and to educate the public on the proper use and maintenance of septic systems. Aging septic systems are a threat to human health, water quality, and the environment. Athens-Clarke County undertook to solve the issue locally, and address this particular comprehensive plan activity with funds from an EPD 319 Grant in conjunction with the Upper Oconee Water Planning Council.

Athens-Clarke County (ACC) has nineteen stream segments listed on the EPD 303(d) list for fecal coliform contamination. Using funds from a 319 Grant, ACC developed a program to address the issue. The program:

- created a comprehensive inventory of all septic systems, the first of its kind in the State of Georgia, that was used to determine watersheds affected by failing septic systems and determine the target audience for septic maintenance education;
- developed an educational campaign which created and delivered original educational materials to the public;
- developed a sampling and monitoring plan to analyze ACC septic watersheds for fecal coliform and optical brighteners to determine the level of impact septic systems may have on local watersheds and to gage the impact of the education campaign.

This activity also addressed another item in the ACC work program to develop ordinances and other programs to Explore opportunities to amend Athens-Clarke County Code to enhance the protection of natural environmental features such as topography, mature forests, rock outcrops, historic sites and streams. The creation of the septic inventory, education campaign, and the water quality monitoring program has successfully helped ACC understand the impacts of failing septic systems and to work on de-listing impaired streams.

It also demonstrated the lack of septic system knowledge pushing ACC staff to continue the education efforts through the Clarke County Health Department, ACC Stormwater Program and Water Conservation Office. The Septic System inventory and educational materials can be used as a template for communities throughout the state of Georgia. The materials can be previewed at www.athensclarkecounty.com/septic.
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ACC Public Information Office 
706-613-3795
savewater@athensclarkecounty.com

http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/septic.
 
Athens-Clarke County Urban Agriculture: a PlanFirst success story

Over the last seven years since the adoption of the 2008 Athens-Clarke County Comprehensive Plan, staff has put forth efforts in pursuing many of the goals outlined, with one such aspect having both unique and prosperous results. In 2008, the community as a whole stated a desire to research, analyze, and pursue ways in which Athens-Clarke County could join the growing trend of sustainable, urban agricultural practices. There are many direct and indirect references made to sustainability and urban agriculture throughout the comprehensive plan and its associated documents, most notably though within the Community Agenda. This section is broken down into several general service topics that specify issues and opportunities of importance. Under Economic Development, Opportunity #7 points out that Athens-Clarke County has a growing, small-scale agricultural industry, and that Policy “A” should encourage small, sustainable farming with a Long-Term Goal of creating a farmers market and community gardens. Additionally, within the Environmental section of the Community Agenda, Issue #8 discusses the impacts of various development, thus highlighting the need for Policy “B” which encourages the re-adaptation of vacant properties along with countering invasive species.

To bring about these changes, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government (ACCUG) put forth efforts to formally adopt ordinances related to sustainable, urban agriculture. For the first time, three separate ordinances were constructed that addressed distinct aspects of sustainability and urban agriculture. On February 4, 2014, a community garden ordinance was adopted to specify regulations for creating and maintaining private/semiprivate/public gardens and their associated sales activities. On June 3, 2014, a prescribed grazing ordinance would take place as an alternative to mechanical maintenance of lands. Then, on May 5, 2015 an urban agriculture ordinance was adopted allowing for the keeping of chickens in all zoning districts, even within the urban core. One existing ordinance pertaining to home occupations was also amended on October 1, 2013 in response to small-scale agricultural businesses by providing an opportunity to run a cottage food service so long as it meets permitting requirements of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

All of these ordinances were first recommended for support by the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission and then ultimately approved by the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission. Permits have been issued in relation to these newly adopted procedures, and many aspects of the sustainable, urban agriculture goals set forth in the comprehensive plan are now present throughout the community. The ACCUG considers its efforts to create and sustain urban agriculture a success due to the popularity such recent actions have had amongst the general public; the lack of negative concerns since implementation; and the continued motivation to preserve basic, historic agricultural techniques and opportunities for generations to come within a condense urban environment.

An additional example of success as derived from a non-profit entity within Athens-Clarke County is that of the Athens Farmers Market: Local and Sustainable. Though it is not formally affiliated with the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, this limited liability company came about at the same time as the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, which specifically called for the creation of such a commodity. The Athens Farmers Market has operated continuously ever since and has prospered in its growth and influence, further demonstrating the need for communities across Georgia to consider planning initiatives that embrace sustainability and urban agricultural practices.

The Athens-Clarke County Unified Government has made a strong commitment to community planning, through which it is dedicated to accomplishing its future objectives as outlined in the most recent comprehensive plan. The significant rate of participation from members of the community in developing the document highlights the value in such a planning tool, one in which the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government intends to implement, not just reference from time to time.

https://www.municode.com/library/ga/athens-clarke_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIIICOOR_TIT9ZODEST_ARTIZO

http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/151/Planning-Department
 
Braselton - LifePath

The City of Braselton instituted a Community Improvement District along GA Hwy. 211 to increase the commercial and residential offerings of the community, and to augment the amenities currently being offered. Building on its stated transportation policy in their comprehensive plan of “Explore and foster multimodal transportation alternatives, particularly walkways, bikeways and other trails within and connecting key Activity Centers,” the City of Braselton has built a multi-use trail that will eventually run for 11 miles. This trail, known as the LifePath, will connect neighborhoods, shopping and activity centers and transportation corridors within the community. The first construction phase of 1.7 miles on the trail was completed in July 2013, in existing right-of-way along GA 211. The trail runs parallel to the road and provides alternative transportation opportunities for walkers, bicyclists, golf carts and other modes of transportation. Most of the funding for the LifePath is coming from the Braselton Community improvement District (CID) with some funding coming from the City of Braselton’s share of the Gwinnett County SPLOST. The LifePath will provide an enhanced quality of life for residents as well as improve the community's attractiveness to new residents and businesses. Braselton, City of

http://braseltonlifepath.com/
 
Braselton Downtown Revitalization: a PlanFirst community success story

The effort to revitalize the historic downtown of the Town of Braselton was a result of a community wide planning effort with the mission to improve infrastructure, facilitate pedestrian movement, rehabilitate historic structures, promote economic development, create public spaces, and improve the overall aesthetic appearance of the downtown. At the time the planning efforts were kicked off, the historic downtown suffered from neglect in the form of deteriorating structures and properties, lack of business investment, lack of pedestrian facilities, and poor traffic flow design. The downtown plan's mission was to create a vision to improve the historic district in these areas.

Specific goals and work items relating to the downtown vision is referenced in the Braselton Comprehensive Plan. Since the time the plan was formulated, the Town has completed many projects which has transformed the appearance, functionality, and climate for new businesses to thrive. Specific project accomplishments that have been achieved or are underway include: 1. Rehabilitation of the historic Braselton Brothers Store Building to accommodate new retail and restaurant businesses; 2. Streetscape improvements to include new sidewalks, streetlights, and street trees; 3. Rehabilitation of other historic structures to be utilized by new retail businesses; 4. Construction of a new library, court building, and planning building in the historic downtown core; 5. The design and construction of a new Town Green to be used a public space.

http://www.braselton.net/
 
Commerce Downtown Blueprint Project- NE GA Regional Commission

The Northeast GA Regional Commission’s regional plan (2012) included in its regional work program, in the Social and Economic Development section, that the RC shall “Assist local governments with economic development planning and funding opportunities.” In direct implementation of that work item, the staff of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission's Planning and Government Services Division has been frequently engaged by local governments in Northeast Georgia to facilitate small area, strategic-planning processes. These efforts take a variety of forms, from formalized urban redevelopments plans to small area development strategies.

Of note among these efforts is the commitment to public engagement demonstrated by the City of Commerce in the development of a blueprint for the success of their historic downtown.
The first public meeting for the Downtown Commerce target area was held on January 8, 2015 in the Commerce Public Library auditorium. NEGRC staff facilitated the development of the agenda over the course of two meetings, and a robust outreach strategy was formed; individual stakeholders were tasked with spreading word of the meeting to specific groups, including business owners, civic clubs, and racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods. In order to encourage participation, the City offered a $10.00 utility bill discount to all meeting attendees. With between 60-75 people in attendance, City and NEGRC staff found it necessary to move small groups into other sections of the library during the discussion and feedback portion of the agenda.

The downtown blueprint has been completed and is being implemented by the City, the Commerce Main Street Program, the Commerce DDA and other stakeholders within the City.
NE GA Regional Commission 
www.negrc.org

http://www.commercega.org/uploads/documents/blueprint-strategy-final_3.pdf.
 
Madison TDR program: a PlanFirst community success

The City of Madison is one of less than a handful of municipalities in Georgia to initiate a Transferrable Development Rights (TDR) Program. Unlike traditional agricultural oriented
programs, this TDR Program concentrates on the protection and connection of vital pockets of natural habitat, riparian areas, and greenspace within an existing built environment. From policy development to program implementation, this collaborative planning initiative is reaping conservation and cash now and is poised to leverage future greenspace and growth benefits for this small town. This program was heavily referenced and developed in the Madison Comprehensive Plan. The Madison TDR Program was sought for Resource Management objectives, but its first use was superlative in obtaining both Resource Management objectives and Housing Options objectives. A website dedicated to the TDR program is available at www.MadisonGA.com/TDRprogram.

http://www.madisonga.com/
 
Maxeys - Water System Upgrade

The City of Maxeys put into its comprehensive plan several years ago their plans to upgrade and enhance their water system. This came to pass when they were able to build an elevated water storage tank, drill new wells to feed this tank, and replace their existing water main through a grant from GEFA. These enhancements enabled the City to not only have excess capacity in case of drought or other catastrophic event, but also to be prepared for development that may come their way. Additionally, by adding fire hydrants, the City was able to lower its fire insurance rating, saving their citizens money. 706-759-2177
 
Newton County Leadership Collaborative

As early as their 1998 comprehensive plan, Newton County and its municipalities determined that decisions on important things like school location and location of infrastructure should be made in a communal manner, with all the various impacted entities working together to achieve decisions that are best for the community as a whole. Newton County and its municipalities used their comprehensive planning process as a springboard for launching the “Leadership Collaborative” where local government and private sector leadership meet regularly to discuss issues, agree on solutions, and ensure that the comprehensive plan is being implemented. This has yielded a string of successes, including vibrant economic growth and designation as a WaterFirst community for their innovative approach to management of water resources. info@thecenter-newton.org

http://www.centernewton.org/
 
Northeast Georgia Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (NEGRSWMA)

The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission was instrumental in forging a unique partnership of the local governments in its region – to coordinate their solid waste management efforts and address state planning requirements through joint region-wide solid waste management planning. This effort led to creation of the Northeast Georgia Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (NEGRSWMA), which oversaw development of the first regional Solid Waste Management Plan in 2004, and continues to coordinate plan updates and plan implementation by the participating 10 counties and 46 municipalities. Jim Moneyhun
Regional Solid Waste Management Authority (NEGRSWMA)
Northeast Georgia Regional Commission
706-369-5650
jmoneyhun@negrc.org

http://www.negrc.org/user_files/1296664941_NEGRSWMPFinal123010.pdf
 

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