Zoning Board Takes Plan to City Council

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Blue Ridge’s Zoning Appeals Board is taking its vision of Blue Ridge to city council. Although the city approves a general, required strategic plan, the zoning board has been working diligently on its own strategic plan identifying more pointed items.

Volunteering for the project, Geoff Edelman led the discussion during Tuesday’s Zoning Appeals Board meeting. Guiding the talk, Edelman said the plan should envision what the city will look like five to seven years in the future. By using projected data and making certain assumptions, Edelman asked the board: what would the city look like in five to seven years?

“How many businesses are going to be here? What’s the revenue going to be? What’s the local economy going to be like as far as around Fannin County?”

he asked. In general, the board agreed answering these questions in the plan. Board member Patrick Walker, though, recommended a visual component in the form of an aerial view of the area. Walker and other members also agreed that while the city should encourage expansion, any expansion should be controlled.

Development of the board’s plan also parallels plans for a Blue Ridge Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Typically, DDAs promote and help enhance business districts. The board’s strategic plan is expected to help forge the city’s DDA, still in its infancy.

This week’s meeting also posed more philosophical questions, such as defining Blue Ridge–What is the City of Blue Ridge and What should it be? While discussing particulars of the plan, Chairman Greg Martin stressed the importance of defining the city.

“None of this will happen,”

he said,

“unless Blue Ridge is defined.”

Elderman, however, countered that the city’s definition will be the result of the strategic planning effort.

According to the discussion, the plan includes signage and parking in the city, the latter of which persists to be one of the most pressing issues for Blue Ridge as the city continues to grow. In fact, earlier this month, city council met with Georgia Municipal Association Consultant Joe Whorton to discuss a six-month assessment and consultation project. During his talk, Whorton noted one of Blue Ridge’s biggest problems is parking. Last year, the city discussed plans to build more parking, but these plans have stalled.

Another plan component is stakeholders, meaning parties identified as responsible for implementing items outlined in the plan. Stakeholders include the Fannin County Board of Commissioners and Blue Ridge City Council. In a conversation with FYN following the meeting, Chairman Martin said after the plan is approved, the stakeholders are responsible for implementing the plan.

Although the strategic plan is not a legal requirement, the board intends to seek approval from city council. Martin said he will bring the plan to Mayor Donna Whitener with the intention of placing the plan on the agenda for an upcoming council workshop.

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