July 18, 2008

Community Gets a Look at County’s Comprehensive Plan

By Jamie Jones, The Daily Citizen, Dalton, Ga.

Jul. 18--Whitfield County residents peeked into their future on Thursday.

The county courthouse played host to a comprehensive plan update open house as officials with MACTEC, an engineering and consulting firm based in Atlanta, explained their findings from a series of community workshops held earlier this year. The update covers unincorporated Whitfield County and the cities of Dalton, Tunnel Hill and Varnell.

"It's hard to do your top line two or three -- your David Letterman Top 10 -- conclusions out of this because the comprehensive plan is so comprehensive," said Lee Walton, a project manager for MACTEC. "That's why we held this open house meeting in this format, so people could come in, sit down and look at the maps with us and have discussions."

Copies of the comprehensive plan update 2008-2018 community agenda were available for perusal. MACTEC took comments from the workshops and condensed them into one large document. Public meetings were held last spring in Dalton, Dawnville, Varnell, Tunnel Hill and Westside, while a "framework workshop" was held in May at the Dalton Recreation Center.

"It's a direct translation of workshop input into the plan," Walton said.

The community agenda contained information on several defined corridors, including commercial, medical, the bypass and Dalton State College. The bypass could be improved by discouraging strip malls, prohibiting billboards and encouraging mixed use developments.

To improve the area around the college, MACTEC recommended putting together a streetscape master plan and more nearby housing for students, faculty and staff.

Walton expects the community agenda to be posted on the county's Web site, www.whitfieldcountyga.com, by next week. A paper copy for review will be available in the Board of Commissioners office in the courthouse annex.

So what's next? There will be another round of public comment at hearings of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners and the City Council meetings in Dalton, Tunnel Hill and Varnell. The local governments will then consider a resolution for the community agenda, which authorizes the county staff to submit the plan to the North Georgia Regional Development Center (NGRDC) and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for review.


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