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Monday, January 14, 2008

URGENT: Grow Green Coaltion Announcement

Following is an urgent email posted today by the Athens Grow Green Coalition about the ACC Comprehensive Plan update. Please read this email through completely, as it contains a great deal of information of immediate importance to all ACC citizens.

From Athens Grow Green Coalition 1/14/08:

Hi everyone,

As you know, the ACC Comprehensive Land Use Plan is being updated. What you may not have heard is that the updated Plan is currently scheduled for a vote at the February 4 Mayor & Commission meeting -- less than 3 weeks from now. Grow Green is asking the Mayor & Commission to postpone this vote for at least a month to allow sufficient time for public review and input. If you would like the opportunity to review and comment on the document that will guide our growth for the next 20 years, please contact your commissioners (contact info available at ) and ask them to postpone this vote! Read on for more details.

The Plan update process began with several large public meetings, followed by the appointment of a citizen Steering Committee to lead volunteer subcommittees in drafting sections of the Plan (such as Environment, Housing, Transportation, etc.) The timeline called for the subcommittees to create a draft Plan, which was to be edited by the Steering Committee, followed by 2 months of public review and education before adoption by the Mayor & Commission. The public involvement process worked well up though the creation of the first draft, which was handed to the Planning Department and Planning Commission for review in June. But at that point, public involvement effectively ended.

During the fall of 2007, the Planning Department and Planning Commission made significant changes to the document without the involvement or input of the citizen Steering Committee. When some Steering Committee members questioned this, they were given a week in November to provide written comments -- an insufficient time to reconvene the volunteer subcommittees. No meetings were held to explain the Plan to the general public or invite their comments.

The rewritten Plan has now been submitted to the Mayor & Commission. There has been no official notification to the general public, nor even to the subcommittee members and others who participated in the planning process. As of this writing, only the original draft of the Plan, not the rewritten version, is available at the Planning Department Web site ( ).

Even more alarming, we recently learned that the Future Land Use map -- the map that serves as a basis for zoning designations -- has also been revised without public involvement. The new draft map briefly appeared on the Planning Department Web site but has been removed as of today, Jan. 13.

We are not suggesting any duplicitous activity or bad intentions on the part of the county. The deadline by which the Plan must be accepted by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs is June 2008, and DCA will take some time to review it, so it is understandable that ACC wants the process to move quickly. It is also entirely possible that these latest changes to the Plan and map are in the public’s best interests.

However, those citizens who donated their time (an estimated 2500 hours, according to ACC) to the process should be given a fair explanation of the changes that were made, and be given a reasonable opportunity for further comment. We recommend inviting the chairs of the subcommittees to a work session with the Mayor & Commission. Equally important, the general public must be given a fair opportunity to evaluate the plan and the new map through well-publicized meetings and an organized process of input and response.

Please contact your commissioners before the agenda setting meeting this Thursday, Jan. 17 and ask them to postpone the vote for at least another month.

Beth Gavrilles