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Board of Commissioners considering public hearing on completed comprehensive plan
Addition of “character areas” a concern to board members
FB DCN Government County

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners plans to hold a public hearing on the county’s 2018 comprehensive plan draft, which was recently approved by the state Department of Community Affairs and is ready for the board to adopt.

The plan is a roadmap for elected officials to use when planning for the future, and the county began the update process early this year with surveys and public meetings soliciting citizen input on the way they want future growth and development to be handled.

Four public input and update meetings were held throughout the spring and summer and a 28-question online survey collected input from over 500 people.

The plan must be updated every five years in order for the county to maintain its Certified Local Government Status, which makes the county eligible for state grants and programs.

Presenting the plan to the board on Dec. 13 was Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley along with Adam Hazell, director of planning for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, who has helped facilitate the process of updating the plan.

Perhaps the most important piece of the plan, the map which shows how the board wants the county to look in the future and how they want to accommodate new growth, was the main topic of conversation during the work session due to the addition of something called a character area map.

Traditionally the county has utilized a future land use map, which shows the current and potential zoning for every parcel in the county. When developers or property owners want to build or develop land in a way that would change the use of a property, they have to apply to the county to have the zoning changed.

If the applicant asked for a rezoning that was consistent with the future land use map, the board would have a hard time legally defending a denial of the rezoning.

The proposed comprehensive plan that was presented to the board for approval includes a character area map in place of the future land use map. The map includes nine recommended character areas, which Hazell defined as sub-areas where multiple uses are allowed that are all compatible with each other.

This allows for more flexibility because the county would be looking at zoning on a neighborhood scale as opposed to individual parcels.

“The notion is that if someone were to come before the county looking for a rezoning now, they would almost essentially have to fit exactly what it is on (the future land use map) versus having some options that might be available to them under the character area map,” Hazell said. “It’s a matter of approach; the state allows either one.”

Multiple members of the board said they were previously unfamiliar with the concept of a character area, and Chairman Billy Thurmond said he would like to have another public hearing now that the document is ready to be approved to allow the community a chance to provide feedback.

Hazell said that the plan is a living document, and can be revisited even after the board votes to approve it.

The proposed character areas are detailed in the draft beginning on page 26. The draft can be located at dawsoncounty.org under public notices.

The board could decide to schedule a public hearing at the Dec. 20 voting session.

In other business:

County Attorney Lynn Frey asked the board for approval during the work session to move forward with the purchase of land for Fire Station 9, which is planned to be built off Sweetwater Juno Road.

Frey said the county would hopefully be closing on the land on Dec. 18 for the purchase price of $27,590, the same amount as the current tax valuation.

The board voted unanimously to allow Frey to approve the expenditure and sign off on the documents necessary to complete the purchase.

The fire station is a SPLOST VI project.

Coming up on Thursday’s voting session, the board will in all likelihood vote to rescind their objection to an annexation request the city council approved on Dec. 3, contingent upon the county withdrawing the objection.

The property in question is located at the corner of Allen Street and Perimeter Road next to the Stonewall subdivision, where developers proposed a 53-home subdivision with a density of 3.7 units per acre.

The board of commissioners objected to the density in a letter sent to the city in October, and developers subsequently proposed a density of 3.2 units per acre, bringing the number of homes down to 44-45 lots.

On Thursday the board will also hear an update from Brian Trapnell, chairman of the Development Authority of Dawson County.

The development authority has undergone several changes in the past year, including entering into a partnership with the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce and remodeling and relocating into the same building as the chamber, as well as the creating the role of Director of Economic Development, which was filled by Betsy McGriff in July.

Also on the agenda, the board could vote to approve a contractor for work on the Lumpkin Campground Road and Hwy. 53 intersection; vote to approve a rezoning request for a minor three-home subdivision; approve several grant applications and reappoint members of the planning commission. 

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