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Residents discuss what they’d like to see in Hall County's future
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Adam Hazell, planning director of the Georgia Mountain Regional Commission, looks at maps at a community meeting on the Hall County Comprehensive Plan Monday, March 14, 2022. - photo by Conner Evans

Hall County is updating its comprehensive plan — it’s roadmap for the future — and residents gathered Monday, March 14, to share what they’d like to see in terms of transportation, land use and managing future growth. 

Some residents recognized the need for affordable housing to accommodate the economic development in the area and provide support for those with low-income jobs. 

“I’m really curious about housing and what implications this plan will have long-term on housing, particularly affordable housing,” said Jonathan Rucker, a South Hall resident. “It’s getting to the place now where it’s going to be difficult for young people to find a decent place to live. … I’m a Gainesville native, so I’ve seen a lot of changes in my lifetime, and it’s really disturbing seeing what’s being built.” 

New expensive apartments being constructed in the city and elsewhere in the county may have the effect of pushing low-income workers out, Rucker said. 

Others advocated for more bike lanes in the county to provide different transportation options and get some cars off the road, saying Gainesville and Hall County are behind other jurisdictions in the area.

“Everybody is stuck in a car,” said Robin Terrell, a Gainesville resident. “You get congestion, pollution.”

Terrell also suggested having more townhomes or other walkable types of communities targeted toward older residents who would have more opportunities to see neighbors and have a smaller living space. 

Maritza Pichon, a West Hall resident, said she’s enjoyed seeing some of the growth, particularly in downtown Gainesville, but wants to make sure her neighborhood near the Dawson County border stays quieter than further south. 

“It’s very difficult to know what’s going to happen in these areas,” Pichon said. “You see apartments going up in different places. … I would rather know on the front end than after the fact.” 

And the area could see more growth while more people are working from home and don’t have to be as close to major metro areas. 

“I think there is opportunity and also challenges,” Pichon said. “People love living in the country. They love scenery. They’re so close to the mountains; we have our lake. It’s such an appealing area, and if you’re going to be working in front of your computer, and your view is a mountain or lake view, it’s a very appealing area.”

Adam Hazell, the planning director for Georgia Mountain Regional Commission, said his main focus was how the county will manage transportation infrastructure going forward. The Sardis Road connector, for example, could be a way to ease traffic or, with time, it could turn into another congested corridor. 

“The Sardis connector will invariably change the nature of that aspect of the county, will take it up to the next level of urbanization,” Hazell said. “The intersections along there will be inviting commercial activity.”

He suggested keeping out too much development along the future route that would connect Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 area in West Hall to Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 in North Hall. 

Different areas of the county will have different needs, said Allison Sinyard of Atlanta-based TSW Architects, who is also working on the Gainesville comprehensive plan update. 

“(We’re) trying to focus more of the growth toward the south end of the county and keep the north end a little more rural, which makes sense because there’s a lot more activity going on near Gwinnett County and Jackson County, and there’s a little bit less so in Habersham and White County,” Sinyard said. 

The current process will be for a minor comprehensive plan update, required once every five years by local governments in the state, but Hall County is also planning a more extensive look starting late this summer, Sinyard said. 

The next Hall County comprehensive plan public meeting will be held on April 11 at the Hall County Government Center.