Speaking for an informal action committee composed of downtown business owners, residents, and civic planning professionals, Charles “Bo” Chance outlined an extensive study (funded by the group) to address continued revitalization of the downtown area. Council members and attending residents chimed in and asked questions during what could be considered a ‘dream session’ on possibilities for the city.
“C.J” Stom, owner of Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals in Blue Ridge told FYN:
“We need to be proactive and have a plan. Funding sources and investors need to know that we will spend money in a responsible way.”
Stom is referring to the possibility that the city might eventually decide to form a downtown development authority (DDA). DDA’s are often the entity receiving money when state grants are funded.
Without a DDA, the city is ineligible for most grants.
A DDA could partner with the city to plan and execute projects. Typically, DDA’s are composed of lay professionals and civic leaders who, armed with strong relational and organizational skills, volunteer their time, contacts, and resources to spearhead projects.
The DDA would not have the authority to go ahead with projects without the city’s permission.
During the meeting, Chance advised councilmember’s to “take a leadership role and put a team together” in order to concentrate on one area which the study revealed was important. That way, they could take advantage of the city’s virtual ‘talent bank’ of citizens (many of which are retired professionals) when developing projects.
Chance told the audience that some of the projects could be completed within weeks and other may evolve over several years.
Examples of small projects included the construction of “gateways” (decorative directional signs pointing travelers to the downtown area from the four lane.)
Chance spoke at length about expertise throughout the state that the city could draw upon ‘free-of-charge’ such as the Georgia Municipal Association and the J.W. Fanning Leadership Center located within the University of Georgia.
Councilwoman Rhonda Thomas enthusiastically volunteered to head up a committee.
“I’ll do whatever –whatever needs to be lead.”