County creating Rural Design Guideline Project
By Jessica Blomquist
The Morgan County Planning and Development Commission is allowing members of the community to submit their opinions on growth in the county in regards to a new project underway.
On Thursday, June 5, Allison Moon, senior planner of the department, met with citizens at the Agricultural Land Use and Zoning Discussion Group meeting at 6 p.m. to introduce this new project and get feedback from attendees.
The Rural Design Guideline Project was created to help form a list of suggested guidelines for residential developments being built in the community, to keep in line with the county’s rural character.
The main purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to allow citizens of the county the ability to help define what is means to protect rural character.
“Some of the best suggestions I get are from citizens,” said Moon. To do this, Moon first sent planning department interns, Desiree Estabrook and Lindsey Kerr, both completing their Master’s degree in historic preservation at the University of Georgia, on a scavenger hunt around Morgan County. The two interns photographed small towns like Rutledge, Buckhead and Godfrey, scenic roadways like Fairplay Road, neighborhoods, farm pastures and more, to get a feel for what rural character might be.
The photos from their first two weeks of documentation were then compiled into a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation and shown at the meeting. Many of the people who attended the meeting agreed that protecting the natural landscape and viewsheds is an important part of preserving rural character. And while many were uninterested in implementing architectural guidelines for building unless in a designated historic district, they did feel there should be parameters for developer coming in to build a subdivision.
Mostly though, protecting the topography and viewsheds proved the central concern of the members of the community present at the meeting. Much of the discussion was spent trying to figure out how to minimize the impact of development on a viewshed from the road.
One suggestion was to build houses in the tree line so as to leave pastureland in the foreground of the horizon as unobstructed as possible. “They really wanted to put an emphasis on the presence of existing landscapes and viewsheds,” said Moon. Information gathered from these meetings and from eight weeks of documenting, photographing and surveying this summer will be put together and published into a document between now and December if the county commissioners approve of the design guidelines. Though the guidelines would not be strictly enforced, there may be incentives for people meeting the requirements, such as expedited permit approvals. “I think that people are very receptive to this idea,” said Moon. The Ag Zoning Group, which has been meeting bi-weekly since March, will continue to meet through June. On June 19, the group will hold its regular meeting to discuss land use and zoning in the county. Members of the group who are interested in forming an agricultural cooperative and others from the community will meet on June 12 with Moon who is helping citizens to organize and form a co-op.