Plan in works for land use, protection

COVINGTON - The creation of a long-range plan to ensure that Newton County's greenspace and other environmental resources are preserved is under way.

Newton County is partnering with The Georgia Conservancy and Georgia Tech's City and Regional Planning Program on a project called Blueprints for Successful Communities.

The intent is to develop a countywide Comprehensive Land Conservation Strategy that would serve as a blueprint to guide land conservation decisions in the future.

At issue is how to preserve clean air, clean water, locally produced food, land for recreation, parks, local habitats and providing ecosystem services.

The public is being asked to participate in the planning process. Two public meetings have already been held, with two more to come.

The next meeting will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. March 11 at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning, 2104 Washington St.

"Many times when we get to a point where we have a whole lot of growth, we start to set standards or principles on how we want to grow certain things. Those things have to be inventoried and we have to understand them factually," said Kay Lee, director of The Center, explaining the importance of the plan.

Once the plan is complete, local government bodies will prioritize the portions they want to implement, she said.

Newton County's long-term planning process projects to 2050, when the county's population is estimated to reach 400,000 - four times its current size. The preliminary 2050 Concept Plan recommends as much as 50 percent of the county be devoted to green uses.

In addition to resource preservation, county officials are focused on quality of life goals, comprehensive strategies and economic development strategies.

The process was initiated by the Leadership Collaborative, which brings together officials and staff from the county, city, school board and Water and Sewerage Authority to address common issues. It is being facilitated through The Center.

The Blueprints for Successful Communities will take about a year to complete.

The cost for the plan is $47,000, with The Georgia Conservancy funding $20,000 and the remaining $27,000 being split between Newton County, the Water and Sewerage Authority, Smart Growth Newton and the Newton County Land Trust.

The plan is being done by graduate students in the City and Regional Planning Program at Georgia Tech working under Professor Randall Roark.

A final public meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18.

During its 13-year history, Blueprints has conducted 19 stakeholder-driven planning programs in communities throughout Georgia.

The program's mission is to help communities make the most of assets and face growth challenges, with the final Blueprints report serving as the community's implementation plan.

For more information

about Blueprints, visit http://groups.google.com/group/newton-county-blueprints.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.