A couple of decades back, when metro Atlanta was in the midst of its growth boom and the end didn’t appear to be in sight, there was much talk about land use planning and what the future would bring. It was almost impossible to attend any gathering of elected officials or government bureaucrats without someone discussing high density housing vs. low density, live-work-play communities and the future of “exurbs,” planned communities developed outside of the suburbs.
The heyday of the boom is a memory, and the economic realities of recent years have taken some of the urgency away from discussions on how communities might best plan for year after year of unprecedented growth that seemed to never end.
But intelligent land use planning is no less important now than it was then.
Forsyth County residents have an opportunity to let their voices be heard while the county is collecting comments and opinions as part of the process for developing an updated future land use map as part of its comrehensive plan update.
The comprehensive plan and land use map are supposed to serve as guides to help the county develop in a reasonable fashion in the future. The key word here is guide. It is not a dictate set in stone, but an idea of what might work well in land use development in the future.
The plan, due to be completed next year, is supposed to serve as a guideline for growth for the next 20 years.
There is only one absolute guarantee in such a planning process — the end result will not please everyone.
There are some who will want large acreage home lots to be mandatory. Others will want severe restrictions on commercial properties. Some will lobby for more multifamily housing, while still others will want increased greenspace acreage.
In the end, the comprehensive plan is likely to include a little of something from all those groups and more, and not enough of any of it to satisfy everyone.
But as they move forward with the process, there are some realities county planners have to face. There is a need for more commercial growth in the county. There have to be major industrial corridors.
At some point in the future, the economic recovery will again drive up the price of residential housing, and at that point there have to be options for those who can’t reach the upper rings of the middle class ladder.
There has to be a coordination of housing and schools, and an interweaving of an intelligent transportation plan that takes into reality the needs of residents years into the future.
There has to be an acceptance that the local government will not be able to afford to satisfy demands for parks, infrastructure and services at the level it did in years past. Add to that an understanding that the county’s demographics may change considerably over the next 20 years.
You can let your voice be heard on the land plan issue by visiting the county’s Web site prior to March 24 to vote for one of four draft proposals, and by taking advantage of opportunities for public input in the months to come as the land use map begins to take definitive shape.