10 Cities Honored by State for Successful Comprehensive Planning

Comprehensive planning is essential in helping to build strong, vibrant communities, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) honored nine cities and one county with its 2021 PlanFirst recognition. The PlanFirst program – a partnership with DCA, Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), the Georgia Planning Association, and 12 regional commissions – identifies state leaders in quality planning and plan implementation.

The newly designated communities are the cities of Bainbridge, Cornelia, and Sandy Springs. Redesignated communities are Jones County and the cities of Adel, Perry, Thomasville, Tifton, Vienna, and Woodstock. DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn said, “DCA’s goal is to help communities create a climate of success, and we understand that good planning is one of the essential building blocks to accomplishing that very mission.”

New PlanFirst Communities

City of Bainbridge: The Broad Street Alley Project was identified in the 2014 Strategic Plan and was dedicated May 1, 2019. This project transformed an unused space to a destination, complete with a sidewalk, string lights, planter boxes, and outdoor games.

City of Cornelia: The Municipal Complex and South Fire Station was meticulously planned as part of the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency and Urban Redevelopment Plan. Through the use of a SWOT analysis in the Comprehensive Plan and Operations Sequence Analysis, officials were able to determine the best layout.

City of Sandy Springs: City Springs is a public-private partnership project which involved the transformation of an old shopping center of Roswell Road into an approximately 15-acre, mixed-use development. This area now includes a new City Hall, Performing Arts Center, City Green park, shops, restaurants, amenities, and Ashton City Springs apartments and townhomes.

Re-designated PlanFirst Communities:

Jones County: Old Clinton Tanyard Archaeological Site, a 13-acre location owned by The Old Clinton Historical Society, contains the remains of a tannery and bark mill from about 1810 to the end of the Civil War. It is considered to be the best-preserved tanyard site in the Southeast and a national register nomination is currently being prepared.

City of Adel: The New Southwell Medical Center was close to closing but city leaders leveraged local partnerships to develop this new model of healthcare in rural communities. The new healthcare system saved 250 jobs and created 100 more. The facility includes an urgent care center, in-patient facilities, nursing home, geriatric psychiatric center, and related medical facilities.

City of Perry: Creekwood Neighborhood Revitalization included improvements to housing conditions, water and sewer improvements, and job creation. The city received funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Community Home Investment Program (CHIP), totaling $1,048,651 in federal community assistance.

City of Thomasville: “The Bottom” West Jackson Street Project enhances the city’s downtown area by creating a celebrated streetscape. Improvements include sidewalks enhanced for ADA access, street trees that utilize the innovative RootSpace® system to allow healthy trees in constrained conditions, decorative pedestrian lights, a raised intersection plaza that includes a commemorative wall detailing the historic African American heritage, landscaped curb extensions at all intersections, a mid-block crossing, retention and reuse of the historic granite curbing, a landscaped median, and historical plaques.

City of Tifton: City leaders used data from the Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Connectivity Plan to begin researching ideas to create visually identifiable crosswalks in the downtown area. The first phase began in July 2019; the second in January 2020. A total of 16 crosswalks were installed and feature a herringbone brick pattern that acts as a traffic calming device to alert drivers that they are approaching a pedestrian crosswalk.

City of Vienna: In 2017, the city established its first Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to stimulate downtown economic development. The grant funds were loaned to a downtown building owner to be used for the restoration of a historic building, and the repayments support Vienna’s RLF.

City of Woodstock: The Noonday Creek Trail Project – a multi-jurisdictional endeavor with the city, Cherokee and Cobb counties – will extend the path from its current endpoint at Highway 92 to Cobb’s Noonday Park. Woodstock was awarded $2.5 million from Appalachian Regional Commission, and this project will add two miles to the trail. Future plans include connecting the Noonday Creek Trail to the Silver Comet Trail.

To date, there is a total of 34 communities in the program. Visit the PlanFirst website or email planning@dca.ga.gov for more information.