We often talk about the need to manage growth in Cherokee County — how to keep and make it the very best it can be. But, what are we trying to accomplish and how do we do it?
Actually, we’re trying to restrain residential (population) growth reasonably. Last year, we were the fastest growing county in the Atlanta metro region, and probably the state, at 3.2%. At that rate, our current population of 262,000 will grow to 524,000 in 22 years. We can handle reasonable growth, and it keeps our economy prosperous. But, too much growth will destroy the small-town lifestyle we all love, and overwhelm our services and infrastructure. We’re already seeing that with roads. It’s a bit arbitrary, but my target is to keep residential growth under 3%.
How do we do that?
We can’t (and shouldn’t) stop all growth. The quality of life here, so near Atlanta, will continue to attract people. But, we can reasonably restrain growth through our zoning process, by limiting areas where high density residential development is allowed. The law requires the process to be systematic and fair. It has to consider compatibility with a reasonable land use plan and surrounding development, and it has to allow for reasonable economic use of property.
Our plan calls for substantial density in and around the cities along the I-575 corridor, with moderate densities across most of the already suburbanized south end of the county, and around the centers of major communities. But, it calls for gradually lower densities moving away from those areas, down to a semi-rural density of one living unit per 2 acres across about half the county’s land area. Overall, the plan is designed for a build-out of a population around 500,000.
What about business development?
I see that in two main categories. One is retail sales and services for the residential population. We don’t have to work to attract those. They’ll come when the market is here. They’re really a part of residential growth. We just need to keep them in suitable locations near major roads, and make them look nice.
The businesses we want to attract are those that serve regional, national, or even international markets. They bring jobs without necessarily bringing residents. They can include some retail, like the outlet mall in Woodstock. Distribution centers also qualify, but they bring truck traffic, and often not many good jobs. Mostly, we’re trying to bring light manufacturing and corporate/regional offices. We do that by buying and preparing sites for them, waiving impact fees, and sometimes phasing in their property taxes.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Please email me at email@example.com.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.