Business representatives and community advocates have begun sharing their separate and collective vision of Augusta's future.
The leaders are talking to planning officials about the challenges they envision facing when it comes time to expand their businesses or protect the integrity of their neighborhoods. And a series of forums, which kicked off this week, aim to help city planners during the next 18 months draft an updated version of Augusta-Richmond County's Comprehensive Plan - a blueprint of the city that glimpses 20 years into the future.
"It's a growth management plan," said Paul DeCamp, planning director for the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission, who is in charge of facilitating the update.
The planning commission will launch today the first of several "stakeholder" meetings, at which planners will begin gathering input from various business leaders, neighborhood associations and development councils to help identify what needs exist throughout the community and what the trend of growth will be.
The result of the work will be a detailed recommendation on local land use as it pertains to future residential and commercial development.
The Georgia Planning Act of 1989 requires local governments to submit a long-range comprehensive plan every 10 years. Cities that fail to update their plans lose eligibility to apply for certain loan and grant programs administered by the state.
Augusta and Richmond County adopted a joint comprehensive plan in 1992 and a land use and public facilities update to the plan in 1995. The next update must be completed by Oct. 31, 2002.
"The whole premise is based on fact that local governments ought to have something in place for how that community would like to grow or not grow and develop over time," said Rick Brooks, director of the planning and environmental management division for the Department of Community Affairs. "The plan should be used by decision makers as the population grows ... to use as a guide for decision making over time."
Surveys already have been administered to various stakeholders throughout the county, including the Builders Association of Metro Augusta, the local Board of Realtors, and various businesses and neighborhood associations. The comments collected from those surveys are expected to help the long-range plan materialize in coming months.
"Our goal is to encourage good planning," Mr. Brooks said. "But that type of planning occurs at the local level. It's a bottom-up approach."
Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.
For more information about the comprehensive plan, contact the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission at 821-1796 or visit their Web site at www.co.richmond.ga.us/planz.