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Joint Municipal Association focuses on sustainable development
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Collaboration was the theme at Monday night’s Joint Municipal Association meeting as officials reported and heard progress toward cultivating a unified Northeast Georgia presence that is economically sound and sustainable.

Keep Hall Beautiful Executive Director Kelly Norman and Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown trotted out the newly formed Hall County Green Alliance, born out of the former Hall County Management System. The new alliance is managed as a program under Keep Hall Beautiful. 

“This is the same animal, but with a different name,” said Brown. “The whole idea is to put environment and economic development as priorities.”

The alliance was conceived as a grass-roots group, and is made up of public, private and institutional partners, who all share an investment in successful economic development through conservation-oriented sustainable practices. 

“This is not a pay-to-play type thing,” Brown said, but one open to all constituencies. It includes 25 organizational partners. “When environment and economic development interact,” he said, a higher quality of life for all is achieved. 

Norman and Brown briefed the seven mayors and associated municipal representatives attending the meeting in Flowery Branch on how “smart” environmental practices can enhance economic development, noting Braselton for its streetscape, infrastructure and multiuse pathway projects.

“It’s pretty phenomenal how they’re going to work their system,” Brown said.

“We’re trying to be respectful,” Brown said, of conservation of the region’s resources, “but at the same time get the most yield out of our properties.”

Brown and Norman then provided results achieved so far, and action items. 

Among goals worked on during 2013, said Norman, the alliance moved toward qualifying Chicopee Woods as a designated old-growth forest.

It would be the first in Georgia, Brown said. Its qualification is pending.

Study into establishing “eco-districts,” which encourage urban planners to think “sustainable” during projects’ development to reduce their ecological impact while maximizing benefit, is also underway.

Northeast Georgia Health System was highlighted for its commitment to creating an energy-efficient hospital campus in Braselton, using the latest in “green” construction and development practices.

In areas where the public can play a role, “We have a residential composting program,” said Norman, in conjunction with the Elachee Nature Center. “They offered to support the Hall County Green Alliance,” she said, by being a host site for the project and then turning over its proceeds to the organization. 

In 2014, Norman and Brown said the Green Alliance will continue to focus on sustainable development, ratcheting up regional campaigns to cultivate a sense of community ownership and accountability.

“We want to strengthen the image and the charm,” said Norman, through conservation, protection, replenishment and master planning.

Brown said this combination will eventually put the region in the spotlight, and he said he believes the area can become nationally renowned.

“Underlying everything is fostering sustainability, and development,” Brown said.