Canton’s new mayor, Bill Grant, opened the Feb. 20 City Council meeting with his first State of the City address. Grant described a plan for the city’s future that starts with two public forums over the next few months, and includes fact-finding missions by council-led committees.
These steps are among the first in creating a new road map for the city; the mayor hopes to have the first draft ready for citizen review in six to eight months.
“Our goal is to create the coolest small town in America,” Grant said. “I know we’ll move too fast for some, too slow for others,” Grant said. “But I can assure you, we’ll move forward in a strategic and thoughtful manner. We are all going to be on the same page, moving in the same direction. That’s why we’re calling it a road map.”
On March 12, 6-8 p.m., at the Canton Historic Theatre, city officials will share some ideas for housing of all types, from affordable and workforce up to 2-acre options — and get feedback from residents.
On April 5, 5-6 p.m., before the City Council meeting, a representative from the Georgia DOT will be on hand to discuss improvements for Highway 140 and Highway 5, and the widening of Highway 20. Grant encourages residents to show up to “ask the tough questions. We need to let DOT know what issues we have here in Canton, and how we need to be No. 1 on their priority list.”
At a date to be determined, a board fair will be held, where members of the city’s boards and commissions will be on hand to explain their functions and offer residents a place to plug in to become involved in the city.
Six committees, led by council members, will collect data and information critical to forming the city’s road map.
1. Water and sewer, led by Nick Estes.
2. Housing, led by Shawn Tolan.
3. Economic development, led by Brooke Schmidt.
4. Roads and transportation, led by Jo Ellen Wilson.
5. Building, planning and zoning, led by Sandy McGrew.
6. Public safety, to be chaired by the future Ward 2 council member.
These council members have hit the ground running, according to Grant. “I’m doing the best that I can to keep up with these guys.”
Youth Have a Voice
Planning for the future will be done with the younger generation in mind, Grant said. “Our next generation is vitally important to what we are doing,” he said. “We want to give the next generation reasons to love Canton as much as we do.”
To do that, Grant has established the CanTeen initiative, with Cherokee High School students — senior Lauren Taylor, senior Michael Garcia and freshman Sophia Melbourne — serving with council members and staff on the CanTeen Steering Committee.
A Canton Teen Council also will be established to meet with the City Council, hearing the same agenda items and voting on them. “We want to hear what they think of what we are doing,” Grant said.
Etowah River Trail Expansion
• The extension currently underway should be completed by the end of the year. It includes gazebo and trails overlooking the Etowah River.
• The city is hoping for a May start to the Heritage Park to Boling Park extension. Designs are out for bid; a 12-15 month completion is anticipated. The expansion will include a connector to the Waleska Street bridge, bringing that trail up to the sidewalks, into downtown Canton, and down to the mill.
• Improvements will allow the trail system to accommodate 5K and 10K races easily.
• A public forum will be held March 12 to discuss all types of housing, from public, affordable and workforce up to 2-acre estate housing.
• A citywide housing study will be conducted to understand current inventory, and compare with what is needed.
• Canton is exploring what other cities are doing, looking at out-of-the-box thinking (3-D printed homes, container units converted to single family homes).
“There’s no interest or value in becoming like another town, for it’s our unique character and sense of place that makes Canton truly special, and really the most livable city in metro Atlanta,” Grant said.