Nearly 88 percent of residents responding to a recent survey from Dawson County said they want the city and county to combine their long-range land-use plans.
"I was surprised by that," said Dawson County Commission Chair Mike Berg. "It is very positive sign when people understand that land-use planning transcends borders. The city does have a plan, but it is not formally coordinated with the county. This gives both the city and county added emphasis to work together."
City Council member Chris Gaines agrees.
"We have been involved in the comprehensive plan and hope to continue to work with the county to ensure that long range plans and goals we each have mesh well together," Gaines said.
Berg also said he was surprised that there is interest from the community to continue bringing new business into the county.
"There were three questions about that (on the survey), and all three got positive feedback," he said.
More than 600 people responded to the online "2013 Comprehensive Plan Survey."
"It's a pretty accurate representation of what the community thinks," said Dawson County Commissioner Gary Pichon (District-1). "We should listen to the people, and if there's a significant majority that wants us to go in a certain direction, we are bound to do that, irrespective of what my particular view is."
Pichon noted that a high number of people don't want high-density development anywhere in the county.
"People don't want apartments built here," he said. "So we will not go back and revisit that issue. They have spoken pretty clearly."
For the county commissioners, the next step is to determine on what items they can take action.
"We need to figure out what to change, if anything," Pichon said.
Pichon said that a number of respondents want to acquire parks and open spaces, "even if it means raising my taxes by $100 a year."
Forty-five percent were in favor while 41 percent disagreed. Forty-four percent said the county is not doing enough to protect the aesthetic character of the area.
Another 48 percent said the county's land-use plan should include areas for industrial/business parks and small-business technology parks.
And, 51 percent said the county and city should offer incentives, such as tax breaks, to attract businesses.
Dawson County Planning and Zoning Director David McKee said the survey serves as a tool for possibly making adjustments to the overall comprehensive plan.
"For us, the next step is to conduct focus group meetings out in the community in small groups," McKee said. "The goal for meeting in these groups is to talk directly to people that will be effected by any changes."
McKee cited the Atlanta Motorsports Park as an example.
"We might need a buffer near the motorsports park, and we'll meet with the folks affected, and say, 'Here's three options we're considering,'" he said.
Forty-six percent of respondents said the county should "incorporate commercial areas around the motorsports park to create a buffer between the residential-agricultural and industrial uses.
To put things in perspective, McKee noted question number 10 on the survey, which stated: "Dawson County is growing at a rate of development that is too fast." Sixty-three percent disagreed.
"In 2006, the first time we asked the exact same question, most people said 'yes'", McKee said. "Clearly, we are not growing too fast now."
Only 100 people responded to the 2006 survey.
McKee said the current pace of growth indicates two things first, that the county, as a service provider, has developed the infrastructure to handle more development, and second, that development has slowed down significantly.
"I think our communitys ability to accept development is higher now that it was in 2006," he said.
Brooke Anderson, general manager at Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, agrees.
"Over the past few years, Etowah Water and Sewer Authority has increased its water treatment capacity from 3.0 million gallons per day to 5.5 million gallons per day," he said. "We have also increased our wastewater treatment capacity from 0.5 MGD to 1.0 MGD. We have extended our water distribution system to serve additional areas of the county. This additional capacity allows the Authority to handle residential or commercial growth."
Seventy percent of residents felt that residential subdivisions in Dawson County should be five acres or bigger.
The survey is one method of public input for the county and its 2013 land use plans. If you did not complete a survey, but would like your voice heard, please call or email David McKee, director Dawson County Planning and Zoning, 706-344-3500 x42337, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the complete survey results and comments, visit www.dawsonadvertiser.com.