If you know where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to get there.
It’s even easier with a consistent plan for how to get there. So, where is Cherokee County going? More importantly, how do we get there? And, how do we stay on the right track?
Many of us share the same vision for our county: thriving cities and modern conveniences, but a safe and comfortable place to live and raise our families. We agree on the things we want:
• Plenty of good stores and services, but not too much traffic.
• Great schools, parks, medical and public safety services.
• Adequate roads and utilities.
• Low taxes.
• Nice and affordable homes in a variety of types and price ranges.
• Open spaces with room to breathe.
• Good employment opportunities close to home, or within an easy commute.
• A unique and special sense of place we’re happy and proud to call home.
Our county already offers most aspects of this vision. Word has gotten out about what a great place this is, and we’re now the fastest growing county in Georgia.
It’s wonderful that people want to live here, but excessive residential growth is threatening our quality of life. Traffic has outgrown many of our roads, even though we’re building as fast as we can. The story is the same with schools, and we’re seeing other symptoms of too-fast growth.
There’s more agreement now than in the past about what local government can and should do to realize our vision in the face of this growth. Many agree we want to restrain the growth “reasonably” while we work to build roads and schools to keep up. But, we have big differences in what we see as “reasonable.” Some want to shut down the growth almost completely. Some want relatively little interference with free market forces. Property owners are entitled to a reasonable economic use of their property, so we must balance that, as well.
The county’s current land use plan reflects the midpoint of all this thinking. The county mostly sticks to the plan in its zoning decisions. Cities, for the most part, are being more reasonable about annexations. But, we’re still growing faster than most of us want, and faster than roads and schools can keep up. It looks like we’re going to have to do more.
We can be more conservative in zoning decisions, approving the low end of planned density ranges in the land use plan, rather than the high end. Our decisions still will have to meet legal tests, and we may spend more time and money in court defending them. We’ll need help from the cities. It’s good for them to grow, but it needs to be in and around their cores.
I think we must do more, or risk losing the very things that make our community so special.
As always, I welcome your input, so that we all can plan together for our future. Email me at email@example.com.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.