By REBECCA HAZEN
Alex Smith, Community Planner with Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC), met with city and county officials, and community members on Thursday, Aug. 19, for the first public hearing regarding the five-year update of the Dade County and City of Trenton Joint Comprehensive Plan.
According to Smith, Northwest Georgia was the first regional commission, which started in 1959 as an association. In 1961 it became a commission.
“Twelve counties combined efforts for economic purposes, and to have a more comprehensive communication throughout the region,” Smith said.
Today, the NWGRC is a multi-county organization consisting of 15 Northwest Georgia counties and 49 municipalities. It is the second biggest regional commission outside of Atlanta.
When the Georgia Planning Act was passed in 1989, there was a requirement that every local government had to create a comprehensive plan every 10 years, with a five–year update.
“This is for financial purposes, to become a qualified local government. This is important when you are applying for grants and loans,” Smith explained.
There are required elements of a comprehensive plan. These are: Needs and Opportunities, Community Work Program, Report of Accomplishments, Land Use (for those having zoning equivalent in place), Transportation (if community is in an metropolitan planning organization, or MPO), and Broadband.
Optional elements are Economic Development and Natural Resources.
Thursday’s meeting was the first public hearing, to discuss the process and what has to be done in the future.
Each element of the plan is developed with public participation. A Steering Committee will be created that can meet as often as needed; each meeting will be open to the public. The planning staff works with the Steering/Stakeholder Committee and the public to prepare the plan elements. A draft will need to be completed by March or April 2022.
There is no minimum or maximum required amount of stakeholders needed to participate.
Once the draft is complete, a second required public hearing will be held in April 2022.
After the second hearing, a draft will be sent to interested parties, local authorities, regional commissions, and state agencies, if they are to be affected by the plan.
Once approval is sent from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, final recommendations and reports will be prepared. An adopted resolution will be sent to the local governments. The plan will be publicized on June 30, 2022.
“We are not redoing the plan. Hopefully we are building upon it and pinpointing projects and other information to strengthen the plan itself,” Smith said. “A lot of things can change in five years.”