Development is often the buzz word behind comprehensive plans, a tool governments use and are required to update with the state at least every five years as a “road map” to guide future growth.
A strong emphasis for Gainesville, as it revisits its plan this year, is redevelopment.
“I think people really like the redevelopment they’ve seen over the last several years in the midtown area,” said Rusty Ligon, the city’s community and economic development director. “And they start to think of other areas that might be in need of redevelopment. That’s been a theme we’ve picked up on when talking to people.”
That sentiment is reflected in city efforts, as it’s currently going about gathering public input.
A website showcasing the comp plan update asks visitors to take a “Redevelopment Visual Preference Survey” of areas around Lakeshore Mall off Pearl Nix Parkway and Dawsonville Highway, the Gainesville Mill off Queen City Parkway and Budgetel Inn and Suites off Jesse Jewell Parkway.
The Gainesville Mill area “seems like sort of a logical place to expand the midtown area,” Ligon said. “Midtown is really taking off and starting to redevelop,and it’s going to build out in the next few years.”
The city defines midtown as about 270 acres bordered by Queen City Parkway, Moreno Street, E.E. Butler Parkway and Academy Street.
The Midland Greenway, a pedestrian trail system, is a special feature of the area.
Gainesville, looking to submit final plans by mid-year, plans to keep the website surveys operating through Jan. 31. “We’re starting to get some good feedback from (them),” said Matt Tate, Gainesville’s deputy director of community and economic development.
The city also is sponsoring an informal open house for the public 1-7 p.m. Feb. 10 on the first floor of the Gainesville Administration Building, 300 Henry Ward Way.
“People can just walk in throughout the day,” Tate said. “There’ll be maps and some activities. We’ll have a draft plan in place.”
“The comp plan is so important because it frames what the future will look like,” Gainesville Mayor Sam Couvillon said. “Now is the time for the citizens to get involved and have a voice in what they want the city to look like. They can have a voice in saying, ‘In this particular area, we don’t want housing’ or ‘In this particular area, we need industrial or commercial space.’ ”
As the comp plan is referenced in most rezoning matters that come up before city officials, the surveys and open house are ways ‘to speak up so that you’re given a voice now to have your voice heard later,” Couvillon said.
Rob Fowler, CEO and Partner of Turner, Wood and Smith insurance agency, can relate to the city’s efforts. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce rolled out its Vision 2030 plan in 2005-06 when he served as chairman. It was a similar exercise of looking into the future and possible pathways to reach goals.
“We got input from approximately 1,300 citizens throughout Hall County with 12 citizen meetings throughout Hall,” he said. “At that time, and it may still be, the single largest planning event with that number of Gainesville-Hall County citizens participating.”
He said he hopes resident input in Gainesville’s plan will be great, that “people will take the opportunity to provide their thoughts and ideas.”
For her part, Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO, said she hopes Gainesville “can identify the big issues you can do something about.”
“One of my big ones is transportation,” she said.
Green Street and Dawsonville Highway are main traffic concerns, but there’s also the lingering question of how to move traffic east to west across Gainesville perhaps as part of a “northern parkway,” Dunlap said.
City officials are still several steps from completing the comp plan.
From April to June, they plan to develop a final document based on public input.
“We are finalizing the exact dates for the City Council public hearing later in the spring and final adoption in June,” Tate said.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs requires each city and county in the state to create and update a comprehensive plan every 5-10 years, according to the city.
Frank Norton Jr. of The Norton Agency said he believes the city is at a major moment in its history, so the process ahead is crucial.
“The decisions that are made by the elected officials over the next five years are going to blueprint our community for the next 50 years,” he said.
Gainesville Comprehensive Plan
What: Open house for people to view a draft plan, look at maps and participate in activities
When: 1-7 p.m. Feb. 10
Where: First floor, Gainesville Administration Building, 300 Henry Ward Way