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Want better internet, communities, quality of life? Time to speak up

Public input desperately needed for survey on future growth and development of Macon-Bibb County

MACON, Ga. — As local leaders, planners and developers plot out the next 20 years, they are calling on the public to help guide the way.

The often-mundane, five-year cycle of renewing the Comprehensive Plan gets a jolt this year from the inclusion of broadband access to the list of topics the state requires the plan to cover.

A workshop on broadband and economic development is scheduled Thursday evening from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Kingdom Life at 2138 Shurling Drive.

It’s one of a series of meetings designed to draw input from the community and required for state certification through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

For a county to be eligible for millions of dollars in grants, detailed plans must be submitted.

“The idea of having a land use plan clearly displays a real signal to the market and the community how we represent our growth and development,” said Mike Greenwald, the technical coordinator for the local Metropolitan Planning Organization or MPO, a regional planning organization operating out of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning.

At City Hall, during the first required public hearing on the plan last month, Greenwald pointed out this wasn’t going to be just a binder that sits on the shelf and gets dusted off and refreshed every five years.

“I want this also to be a living document, a source of resource for an elevated and enlightened discussion of what you want this community to be.”

Gregory Brown, the assistant planning director of the Macon-Bibb P&Z, said the plan is broader than just the thoughts of urban and community planners.

“There are special studies in neighborhoods to see what the needs are, what redevelopment efforts,” Brown said.

Nearly three dozen elected and appointed officials, interested citizens, neighborhood associations, business leaders and local organizations serve on a steering committee as the plan evolves.

“This committee is critical to the future of Macon-Bibb county because it is the planning tool the zoning commission will use to make decisions about land us in Macon-Bibb,” P&Z Chair Jeane Easom told members of the steering committee at its first meeting.

A range of topics are being covered over the next few months until the plan is due in October.

Economic development, housing, land use, transportation, education, intergovernmental coordination and now broadband are the main focus areas of the plan.

P&Z’s new executive director Jeff Ruggieri is enthused about new opportunities for development.

“The cool part where we are going to focus a little bit of our creative energy is… broadband,” Ruggieri said. “So we’re going to try to break the mold a little bit on that broadband chapter and see what we can do… see what it takes to bring broadband to every household in the county.”

Submit thoughts online

In addition to Thursday’s meeting, an online survey is available for public input at maconbibbcompplan.com.

“Additionally, there may be times when we’re able to attend meetings throughout the community… to engage the public,” Brown said.

A workshop on natural, cultural, and historic resources and land use portion of the plan will be held for July 7 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Macon Mall at 3661 Eisenhower Parkway.

The next public open house will be July 26 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. at the P&Z office in Terminal Station, Suite 300 at 200 Cherry St.

“We just need to get the word out how important this is and that people need to put their two cents in,” Easom said. “Speak now or forever hold your peace, at least for the next five years.”

The final public hearing will be Aug. 11 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Macon City Hall Commission Chambers.

Civic Journalism Senior Planner Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at fabian_lj@mercer.edu or 478-301-2976.

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