“Change is on the horizon,” Grovetown City Councilman Sonny McDowell said. “We are literally redefining Grovetown. That’s what it is going to do: rebuilding the old, core part of the city.”
Residents can learn more about the plan details from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday at an open house in conjunction with a Grovetown Urban Redevelopment Plan Advisory Committee meeting at Grovetown City Hall.
The city grew from 3,000 to 11,000 residents in the past two decades. But most of that growth occurred on the fringes, depriving the city center the prosperity of other rapidly growing areas.
City officials are now looking for ways to redesign the oldest parts of the city, including much of the residential and commercial areas along Robinson Avenue, the railroad tracks and Wrightsboro Road.
“In essence ... the objective is to rid the city of blight to the extent that it is possible,” McDowell said. “Rid the city of blight and re-create a city that is ... the way we want to see Grovetown look.”
City officials hope the results of the plan will be a prosperous commercial center along Robinson Avenue and attractive, well-planned housing along many fronts, including the railroad tracks that run through town.
On Feb. 13, council members approved the first step of the process: the findings of necessity.
That document, prepared by the CSRA Regional Commission, shows concentrations of poverty, a substantial concentration of deteriorated mobile home parks and a low owner-occupancy rate, commission Planning Director Christian Lentz said.
Those factors combine to depress land and building values and could make the city less attractive to prospective businesses.
If approved, the plan calls for an aggressive reduction of dangerous and abandoned buildings.
“For property values to rise and for Grovetown to have the type of good form in the city center residential areas that it wants, it slowly has to disincentivize the mobile home parks that are there,” Lentz said.
The plan also calls for more staff and many changes to the city’s planning and zoning codes.
Lentz said the focus will be on creating zoning districts that would encourage the grouping of structures with similar size, location, scale and orientation to create more attractive residential and commercial areas.
“Most people aren’t necessarily turned off by the land use,” he said. “They are turned off by the way the land use looks.”
Those updated codes could be applied only to certain properties through restrictive covenants or to the entire proposed district.
The plan also will look at improving Robinson Avenue as a commercial corridor. About 12,000 vehicles travel the main thoroughfare each day.
“Addressing it by more travel lanes and a wider road isn’t necessarily the way to do it,” Lentz said. “It would directly conflict with your downtown vision, the downtown (city officials) want to create. ... There’s no reason why Robinson Avenue can’t become a viable commercial corridor or commercial center in Grovetown.”
McDowell said the Georgia Department of Transportation would consider incorporating ideas from the Urban Redevelopment Plan when designing a project to upgrade Robinson Avenue.
“We have to get way out in front of their design process,” McDowell said.
If passed, the first couple of years of the plan consist of studies, research and planning. Within a few years, officials hope to start construction on a model site. A more-than-1-acre parcel currently housing the senior center and fire station on Robinson Avenue near Newmantown Road is a possible site for the mixed-use model, said Lentz.
After Tuesday’s open house, the plan is expected to go before the city council for approval April 9.