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Roads group OKs revised ‘urbanized’ map

POSTED: March 12, 2013 11:40 p.m.

A group that governs transportation planning for Hall County voted 4-1 Tuesday to revise a census-driven map showing “urbanized areas” in Gainesville and Hall County.

The move by the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy committee was mainly geared to “smoothing” out irregular boundaries created after 2010 census data was released and the initial 2010 map was drawn.

Only Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller voted against the map, which shows part of the South Hall city, including the vast Sterling on the Lake subdivision, in the Atlanta urbanized area.

He said he wanted to find out more about that designation.

City Manager Bill Andrew, who is not on the committee, echoed that concern, saying he wanted to see if that part of Flowery Branch might be entitled to roads money through the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Matthew Fowler, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s representative on the committee, said the designation is more of an “administrative function ... for highway classification purposes.”

“As far as who takes the lead on the planning for it, that’s a separate issue,” he said.

Andrew probed the issue a little further.

“We’ve never had any contact with the ARC at all about road issues,” he said. “I guess maybe we should start doing that, if one of the largest subdivisions in the county is in the ARC.”

The recession stalled growth in Sterling on the Lake, which is bounded by several roads, including Spout Springs, but the subdivision can have up to 2,000 homes on 1,000 acres.

In addition to Fowler, voting for the map were Richard Mecum, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners; Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs; and Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan.

The revised map shows the urban population moving deeper into South and East Hall, as well as farther into northeast Forsyth County.

It contrasts sharply from the 2000 urbanized map, which showed an area just inside Hall County boundaries.

The size of an urbanized area is key to MPOs because it is tied to federal funding. The Gainesville-Hall MPO was receiving about $300,000 per year based on the 2000 census and is now receiving $332,000 based on 2010 data.

MPOs are required by federal law in urbanized areas with a population of 50,000 or more.

Hall’s overall population was nearly 180,000 in the 2010 census. The 2010 census shows the Gainesville-Hall urbanized area as having 130,846 people in a 126-square-mile area.

Nicole Spivey, senior transportation planner for the MPO, has said the newly expanded map doesn’t mean extra money, however.

“The smoothing of an urbanized area is required because when you look at the (2010) urbanized area in its raw form ... it’s very jagged and in some cases, it may not make sense as far as the geography that it encompasses,” she said.


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