DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners held one final public hearing on the 2018 comprehensive plan Thursday.
The plan is one of the county’s most important documents because it provides elected officials with a road map to use in planning the county’s future. It was developed after months of gathering public input at citizen meetings and in an online survey.
The state requires that a county’s comprehensive plan be updated every five years and approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in order to qualify for Certified Local Government Status and to be eligible for state grants and programs.
Thursday’s discussion centered on whether commissioners should base their zoning decisions on a future land use map, as it has done for years, or consider the character area map approach.
Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said the character map offers more flexibility in zoning decisions but is less restrictive than the current future land use map.
“That’s the reason we wanted to look at both,” he said.
Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Christine Moore said, “This is a document that people live and breathe every single day. The character area map to us does make the most sense because of the flexibility and control it provides and also because It allows an adaptability to our ever changing economy.”
Tony Passarello, who serves on both the Long Range Planning Commission and Comprehensive Board is Plan Commission favored the future land use map. “It is more consistent and legally supportable,” he said.
He did recognize some changes needed to be made.
As a member of the Dawson Development Authority, Passarello said one comment he hears constantly is “What we are trying to attract is business that offers higher-paying jobs and more professional growth so we can have our children who are being educated in our fine schools can stay in Dawson County. The current land use map we have has not been adjusted to make room for those types of businesses.”
Passarello also whatever plan is selected needs to “reflect the input we have received from the citizens.”
Terri Tragesser, co-chairman of the Long Range Planning Commission, said, “We have more comfort at this point in time with the future land use map. Not because we don’t believe the character area map has value. We just don’t know enough about it to feel comfortable with it. I’ve seen the future land use map in high-growth areas work very well.”
Like Passarello, however, Tragesser said the future land use map needs some changes.
“You have to put some overlays on those maps so they are more specific,” she said. “So they address things like Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 9 intersection. That will build out with a lot of uncertainty. Right now, we have absolutely no definition in that intersection as to how it’s going to look, how it’s going to build out, how it’s going to work from a transportation standpoint. That’s the type of work that is still to be done.”
The DCA has already approved the comprehensive plan that includes the character area plan, but Hazell said only one section would need to be changed should the Board of Commissioners vote to approve the future land use map and that section has already been submitted for the DCA’s review and approval.
Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “I’d like to step back. I want to make sure we’re doing this correctly. I want to wrap my head around this from a legal standpoint personally before I’m willing to put my name on something that is the future guiding document for the county.”
The Board then directed Gaines and Commissioner Sharon Fausett to meet with the new interim county attorneys, Ken Jarrard and Angela Davis and come to next week’s meeting with additional information.
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