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Planning Success Stories

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Atkinson County-Willacoochee Industrial Park Enhancement

Atkinson County and the City of Willacoochee were experiencing a decline in economic activity as railroads that once served the area had either pulled up their rail or abandoned service. To counter this trend, the City of Willacoochee, with the aid of a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, purchased and renovated an abandoned railroad, which allowed a new company to move in, spawning economic development and creating 135 high-quality jobs. This continues to be a priority for the local government. The 2005 comprehensive plan as well as the most recent update called for expansion of the industrial park to attract and retain quality jobs within the County and the City of Willacoochee.  
Blackshear Railroad Overpass

Blackshear used the comprehensive plan to lay out a step-by-step process for getting a new bridge built over the train tracks that bisected the community, impeding commerce and emergency vehicles. The bridge is now open and functioning as it was intended.. Comprehensive Plan
Brantley County Adopts First Zoning Ordinance

In the 2016 Brantley County Comprehensive Plan, several issues were identified relating to the need for land use management regulations in the county and its municipalities. These were identified as a land use issue in the plan, with several accompanying goals addressing the issue. The community goals that were developed to address these land use needs included ones that explicitly addressed natural resources, agricultural impacts, soil suitability for septic, and development in and around the floodplain.

The comprehensive plan then went on to include a work program activity for the following year, stating: Develop land use development codes and/or zoning codes for the County and Cities. This was accomplished within 6 months of adopting the comprehensive plan. The fact that the County has recognized the need to develop and implement its first ever zoning ordinance during the development of the comprehensive plan and then act on it within six months of adopting the plan is a tremendous success story for the importance and implementation of comprehensive plans.

Brooks County Work Order Record-keeping system (WORKS)

In the Brooks County 2012-2017 Short Term Work Program (STWP), a new work order tracking system was one of the technology improvement projects they had in mind when this line item in the STWP was composed. In 2016, their plan for this improvement became reality.

The Work Order Record Keeping System (WORKS) software was developed to the County’s specifications by the Southern Georgia Regional Commission’s IT program. The construction and deployment of this new system was funded wholly by Brooks County but at a great cost-savings when compared to off-the-shelf software. This new software is web-based and allows the entry, edit and reporting of work orders by users from any mobile or desktop device connected to the internet.

Tools built into the work order dashboard allow managers to monitor the age of active work orders and generate monthly and yearly progress reports as well as plan future work strategies and budgeting of projects. This system also allows for before/after photographs to be integrated into each work order record to document the repairs. Finally, this system incorporates GIS mapping of all work orders that illustrate the location of every work order and its status. The mapping interface of the WORKS application is capable of spatial queries, address searches and similar functions. This feature allows for more efficient handling of repairs as it allows work crews to handle daily tasks in an organized route, therefore reducing miles travelled between jobs.

Coffee County's Barrington Road improved for economic advantage

In its comprehensive plan from 2007, Coffee County stated its goals to create an environment that promotes the county as an attractive place to do business, and to work collaboratively with local governments to ensure there is adequate land for industrial and commercial development by providing the appropriate infrastructure to support this type of development. The plan also encourages infrastructure development that facilitates economic growth and provides needed resources for potential businesses. Coffee County did just that when teaming up with Southern Georgia Regional Commission and Premium Peanut to construct improvements to Barrington Road. The improvements, funded by a OneGeorgia Authority $500,000 grant, ensured adequate transportation for traffic generated by Premium Peanut, as well as new potential industries developing in Barrington Agri-Business Park. As a result of the improvements, Premium Peanut is now the fourth largest sheller in the United States, has created 100 new jobs, and is already in the beginning stages of an expansion that will generate more jobs and economic growth for Coffee County.
Fitzgerald Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Redevelopment

Fitzgerald’s comprehensive plan calls for fostering rehabilitation and reconstruction of affordable housing, and this has become a mantra for the city. The City is one of 14 communities in the country to receive HUD's Robert L. Woodson Jr. Award for reducing regulatory barriers to affordable housing. The City has rebuilt and revitalized entire neighborhoods, creating large amounts of affordable housing by taking advantage of state redevelopment laws and public-private partnerships. As a result, more than 315 units of affordable housing have been built or rehabilitated and formerly decaying neighborhoods are now experiencing significant private investment. Local streamlining of regulations also made it easier for developers to build infill housing.
Fitzgerald's Evergreen Cemetery mapped

The purpose of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has long been as a tool to make better decisions, but it’s also a tool for the preservation of cultural resource location information that will be prized by generations to come. Such is the case for an interactive cemetery mapping web app for the City of Fitzgerald’s Evergreen Cemetery. Owner, occupant, dates, and even marker photos can be stored in a database linked to the lot location on a GIS map. This information can then be easily accessed by cemetery staff, or even the general public via an interactive website.
The interactive cemetery mapping web app at http://www.sgrcmaps.com/evergreen/ features several tools for site visitors to locate the grave site of deceased. They can search by name, date range of death, or by military service. From the returned results of the searches, the user can select and zoom to any of those matching their criteria. Creation of this site resulted in a tool for those looking for the graves of their ancestors, a tool for cemetery managers to use in resource management and maintenance, and supports the mission of the 2016 Joint Ben Hill County and City of Fitzgerald Comprehensive Plan Update by capitalizing on the cemetery as a cultural resource. After deployment, City staff enjoyed decreased phone calls, less office traffic, the ability to respond to inquiries faster, community enthusiasm, the ability to advertise this new service via the web. The interactive map is currently (5/2017) available only on the Southern GA RC web site, but will shortly be available on the City's website.

Homerville Economic Development

Homerville's comprehensive plan recognized two significant barriers to further economic development: inadequate wastewater treatment capacity and limited housing options for the employees of potential new businesses. Three industrial prospects had been lost because of the wastewater and housing situations. Information in their plan also indicated that a number of current workers were driving to jobs in Homerville while living in other communities where housing was more readily available. The city’s 2005 comprehensive plan began to correct these problems, identifying the need to study and make plans to enhance their wastewater capacity and expand the local supply of quality housing. The city thereafter began efforts to encourage more residential development and upgrading its wastewater treatment plant, accomplished in 2013 through a CDBG grant. In the last several years, there has been an increase in new housing development as well as in rehabilitation of existing housing. In order to maintain this existing housing stock, the City hired a code enforcement officer and increased enforcement efforts to ensure quality housing throughout the community. Comprehensive Plan
Land Development Regulations for Small Governments

The regional plan for the Southern Georgia Regional Commission notes the lack of adequate and consistent land use regulations throughout their region, and the need to develop these regulations for local governments. The RC has addressed this activity in their work program through development of such regulations for several communities including the very small city of Broxton, population 1,185. This community previously did not have an adopted zoning map nor did it have zoning regulations or even subdivision regulations, however, it had included development of such ordinances in its 2 most recent comprehensive plans. The need to develop such ordinances was increased when a Dollar Store located in the city on a less than suitable property with questionable access and much citizen opposition. Because the City had no zoning regulations or map, it did not have the tools to direct the developer to a more suitable parcel or even impose conditions. Upon recognizing the need to furnish development guidance within the City to attract quality development on suitable parcels and minimize adverse impacts on neighboring properties, while still being able to provide opportunity for jobs and increase the tax base, the City of Broxton voted to contract with SGRC for a simple zoning ordinance. This new ordinance is consistent with Coffee County's new Land Development Code and implemented by Coffee County in a multi-jurisdictional cooperative project. The Council has held several workshops, developed a parcel based zoning map and a simple, but effective zoning ordinance for the City. Initiatives such as this, by the smallest of communities with the help of counties and the regional commissions, to provide a quality of life to its residents and businesses through a new zoning code, deserve recognition.
Literacy to Work: Increasing Educational Levels in Rural Southern Georgia

In the Ben Hill County and City of Fitzgerald Comprehensive Plan Update on page 24, under Educational Opportunities, it states a goal of wanting to "make educational and training opportunities readily available to enable all community residents to improve their job skills.” The Literacy to Work Program (LTW), a pilot program operated in Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks and Irwin Counties. LTW is a joint program between the Southern Georgia Regional Commission's Workforce Development Department and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, targeted counties in Georgia where 28% or more of the adult population did not have a high school diploma/GED. Four counties in the Southern Georgia were identified. The program was designed to target Adult ages 22+ years of age, and began in early 2016.

The LTW program is a fast track GED program that addresses that goal. It incorporates education, case management/mentoring and a daily transportation stipend. As of February 2017, the percentage of adults without a high school diploma or GED has decreased from 30.7% to 20.6%. An overall change of 10.2%. In addition to a credential, individuals are enrolled in Georgia Best a Work Readiness training program. This combination of a credential and work readiness training improves their job skills and increases their chances of joining the labor force. The benefit to the community is an educated workforce that can meet the needs of business and industry.

Southern GA RC- Greater Lowndes County MPO Coordinated Community Vision

This regional success story addresses many of the guiding principles set forth in the 2013 regional plan from the Southern Regional Commission. Of particular interest are policies such as “Encourage the coordination of t transportation network improvement s and land use planning” as a Transportation principle. A principle stated in the Intergovernmental Coordination section states “Promote and encourage cooperation and collaboration between jurisdictions in developing solutions for shared regional issues.” This excellent example of coordinated does just that- provides a common vision for all local governments involved in the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Commission for all things transportation related.

During the most recent update of the Valdosta-Lowndes MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan, it came to the attention of the Southern Georgia Regional Commission, which provides the staff to the MPO, that several other community-wide planning efforts would be underway during the same time period (2013 – 2016), including over 20 strategic and comprehensive plans guiding the growth and development of local governments, organizations and agencies. While these local plans covered vastly different subject material, there was a great deal of overlap in their goals, objectives, and policies. However, no coordination or consistency had been put into the different plans, even though there were common themes and categories within them all. In an excellent example of true coordinated planning, the Regional Commission and MPO staff collaborated with local officials of Berrien County, Lanier County, Brooks County, Lowndes County, and the Cities of Valdosta, Remerton, Lake Park, Dasher, Hahira to develop a single common vision which could be utilized to unite all local planning efforts.

The result—known as the Greater Lowndes County Common Community Vision—involved a thorough and comprehensive review, analysis, and public outreach effort to ensure a current, comprehensive, and coordinated vision and set of goals. The Common Community Vision contains 18 goals for “Greater Lowndes County,” relating to many diverse areas such as economic development, infrastructure, education, housing, community health, land use, and quality of life.

Moving forward under these goals, all organizations work together toward the improvement of the community. These common goals also fulfill the requirements of the Georgia DCA Rules for Comprehensive Planning and the eight Emphasis Areas required for local Long Range Transportation Plans by the Federal Highway Administration. The one-year Report of Accomplishments documents efforts already underway to meet the community’s shared goals and vision. At least one action, and in most cases multiple actions, have already taken in order to further each of the 18 goals.

Southern Georgia's Flourishing Community Gardens

An item of particular interest and transferability in the Southern Georgia RC Regional Plan is included in the Human Services/Aging section of the 2016 regional work program: Develop and implement a sustainability initiative. To address this, and with the help of a $5,000 grant awarded to the SGRC’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA) by the GA Dept. of Human Services, participants of the Clinch Co. Senior Center broke ground on a community garden in the spring. Located on a fenced plot next to the center, the garden hosts a variety of fruits and vegetables. Named “Garden of Hope – Sowing Seeds of Life,” it is maintained by center participants and local 4-H members.

The focus of the garden was to provide fresh vegetables within the community and to increase older adults’ access to produce. It also promotes multi-generational learning, increases physical activity, and enriches the lives of seniors who are excited to see the garden thrive. All of these outcomes fostered sustainability, an AAA plan goal as well as a regional work program activity.
The garden has served as a model and catalyst for the development of other gardens throughout the region. AAA staff brought awareness of the Clinch Co. garden to other key community members and stakeholders. The initiative was of particular interest to City of Douglas Commissioner Johnnie Lee Roper. Through a partnership he formed with the Providence Community Correction, which donated potting soil, seeds and other supplies, and the City of Douglas, the Coffee Co. Sr. Center now has a community garden that is maintained and harvested by senior center participants. The Bacon Co. Sr. Center has since developed their very own community garden while other area centers are considering the possibility also.


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