This time of year, I look back at what the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners (BOC) has accomplished this year, how it measures up to our goals and what adjustments we need for next year. This entails assessing our results against two overarching goals.
1. Manage the county’s overall growth and development, reasonably restrain residential development and promote good job growth to better balance the two, and maintain the small-town quality of life that makes Cherokee great.
Board members unanimously support responsible growth. Our zoning decisions this year have conformed with our conservative land-use plan. With one notable exception, annexations by the cities were reasonable. We continue to see more people and traffic from development decisions made 10 years ago, but our actions this year should keep future impacts at an acceptable level.
Strategically, I recognize that the lack of cooperation between the county and its cities has been a key barrier to sound growth management. I’m determined to bring us together to resolve it. The city-county negotiations over service delivery and cost sharing, required every 10 years, and the county’s lawsuit against Woodstock over a disputed annexation, were completed this year, allowing talks to begin on how to cooperate to control our growth in a way that will keep Cherokee great.
The Cherokee Office of Economic Development continues to work to bring jobs to our county. Its most successful approach has been to assemble suitable property and make pad-ready sites available for good business prospects. After being hampered by lack of sites, as the Cherokee 75 Business Park fills up, the office has moved to develop a new business park in Canton.
2. Make sure the county’s infrastructure and services keep up with the growth, and are commensurate with being the seventh largest county in Georgia.
Regarding the second goal, we completed a two-year plan in the 2021-22 budget to bring public safety salaries up to the level of surrounding jurisdictions. We were able to do it without increasing property tax rates. Cherokee’s BOC-controlled property tax rates remain in the lowest 20% in Georgia. Factoring in our lack of an additional penny sales tax to directly offset property taxes, we’re in the lowest three of 159 counties.
We completed an expansion of the county’s jail. Unfortunately, the jail population grows with an increased population. We’re working to get started on a needed expansion of the court facilities, the first step being additional parking.
Roads remain the toughest infrastructure challenge.The county uses around half of its special purpose local option sales tax proceeds for road improvements. We’ve begun a series of interim improvements to Highway 140, to keep it functional until the state can address it. Multiple intersection improvements and roundabouts on local roads were completed this year, or are under construction. More are planned. We’ve awarded the contract for the first phase of the long-awaited multi-use trail along Towne Lake Parkway.
I’m always interested in your comments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes for a merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season!
– Harry Johnston is chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners. He’s a retired CPA and accounting manager, and a former district commissioner.