Lynn Kearns has concerns about getting around on foot in Gainesville, but she said she would at least like to be able to “take my grandchildren from Wessell Park to Wilshire Park in a safe manner.”
“A lot of people would like to do biking, but they’re a little nervous about it because there are no safe areas,” said the Gainesville resident and Friends of the Parks board member.
Poring over maps at the Gainesville Administration Building on Thursday, Feb. 10, city residents like Kearns had their own ideas of how the city should develop, traffic and transportation, where to put housing and shops, and basically what should go where.
Common concerns among residents are “connectivity, better retail, affordable but quality housing, transportation,” said Matt Tate, Gainesville’s deputy director of community and economic development.
The city is collecting public input as it puts together its comprehensive plan, 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.
Officials had offered online surveys, with Thursday’s open house giving residents another opportunity to give opinions about development in the city, which has seen a population boom over the past decade, soaring commercial growth in certain areas and now a buzz of activity downtown.
At one point, Tate found himself surrounded by residents around one of many maps that had been set up down a hallway and in a meeting room. They peppered him with questions and voiced opinions.
Asked about Gainesville’s attractiveness to developers, he said Gainesville “is very desirable, with our geographical location to Atlanta, Athens, the mountains. We know that growth is pushing north. The challenge we have is finding that balance. We want to be unique … but we do want to attract the retail.”
“Coming from metro Atlanta, I would like to see more walkability … where there’s places for small retail, a community atmosphere and affordable housing,” resident Amy Provano said upon leaving the meeting. “I like the idea where there’s small shops, offering good produce and things like that.
Husband Joel Provano said he was encouraged that “a lot of the things that we have talked about to make Gainesville a better place to live are what (city officials) were talking about.”
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,” Rusty Ligon, the city’s community and economic development director, has said. “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.”
City officials are still several steps from completing the comp plan.
People can’t comment online any longer, but they can still comment at public hearings, including at a March 15 City Council meeting, Tate said.
From April to June, city officials plan to develop a final document based on public input. Final adoption will take place 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.