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Sunday April 21st, 2019 8:35PM

Lula set to submit update to Comprehensive Plan as growth looms on the horizon

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter

LULA – The City of Lula is getting ready for the future, putting itself in the best possible position to control its own destiny when the soft sounds of promised growth become the thunder of new jobs and new housing and growing public demands on infrastructure.

Monday night a public hearing open house was hosted at the Lula City Hall as the diminutive town of 2886 residents (2017 U.S Census estimate) readied an update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The State of Georgia incentivizes local governments to develop Comprehensive Plans by allowing those cities and counties with DCA (Department of Community Affairs) approved plans access to special financial opportunities.

Cities are then required to update those plans every five years.  Last update by Lula was in 2014, so the deadline approaches.

But with so much growth taking place along the Highway 365 corridor in recent months it has been good strategy for city leaders to wait until the last possible moment to submit that update so as to better evaluate and digest the rapidly changing economic outlook for the city.

The Comprehensive Plan is not a binding document that prevents a government from adjusting as the economy or other circumstances demand, but it is a means of letting those who might invest in the area know what the city or county hopes to accomplish.  It also helps assure private property rights and to maintain a specified quality of life.

Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin explained the proposed Comprehensive Plan Update to council members.  “It should be a fluid and it should be a growing document.  That means things are going to change in that document…none of us have a crystal ball and can see everything.”

The Georgia Mountains Regional Commission is involved in the development of Comprehensive Plans and their updates.  Caleb Davidson is a Regional Planner with GMRC and spoke at length during the open house.

“When you do go for the grant money to get projects built,” Davidson said, “DCA and the state like to see those items listed.”  Davidson was referring to the need to plan carefully regarding future development needs and to include them in the finished document.

Bergin said Lula has watched the rapid growth in the southern end of the county and is hoping to avoid some of the pitfalls experienced there.  “In south Hall right now there is a great deal of money being spent, trying to deal with the issues they have had with growth.”

Bergin pointed at Spout Springs Road as an example.  “For fifteen years (they) have known that Spout Springs Road should be widened,” Bergin said.  “Only in the last five years are we now acquiring the right-of-way.”

“So the smart thing for us to do is to identify the transportation issues and what our future needs are now,” Bergin added.

Lula Mayor Jim Grier agreed with Bergin’s on planning for an unknown future.  “We’re updating this plan at this time based on what we know now.  We know there’s many more changes (likely) coming in the next few months.”

The 2019 Comprehensive Plan Update will be voted on Monday by the city council and submitted to the Department of Community Affairs for their final approval.   

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