Two years ago the city of Statesboro, of its own initiative, created a strategic plan. This year, the city must complete a required, 10-year comprehensive plan to stay eligible for millions of dollars in state and federal grants and loans.
The two processes are similar in that they involve meetings for public input and a public survey. Three input sessions on the comprehensive plan are slated for a Monday and Tuesday later this month: 5-7 p.m. January 28 at Luetta Moore Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive; 1-3 p.m. Jan. 29 at Pittman Park United Methodist Church on Fair Road; and 5-7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church on North Main Street. The 16-question survey is available online at www.statesboroga.gov.
But this year’s planning is different in that the city staff is taking charge of it, without hiring a consulting firm like the one employed for the strategic plan in 2017. While addressing some of the same issues, such as water, sewer and transportation needs, the comprehensive plan must satisfy state requirements for how the planning is done and what it includes, said Statesboro Planning and Development Director Frank Neal.
Besides public infrastructure, Statesboro’s plan will address future land use, housing and economic development, but some of these elements are optional.
“This is the 10-year, comprehensive master plan for the entire city,” Neal said. “The state requires us to update it every five years. It’s required for us to maintain what is called our Certified Local Government status, which allows us to participate in state programs such as Community Development Block Grant programs, GEFA loans and a variety of other state programs.”
GEFA is the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, whose grant and loan programs finance water and sewer projects. Targeted to helping low-income areas, the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program is federally funded but administered through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Statesboro is currently spending a $500,000 CDBG award from 2016 on street, drainage, water and sewer improvements around Kent, Bryant and Lovett streets. The project has a larger total budget, originally $736,000, with local funds supplementing those from the grant.
State must approve
“If we are not a certified local government, then we are not allowed to participate in any of the programs, so it’s very important for us to make sure we are updated and approved,” said Neal, who in addition to heading the planning department is now one of Statesboro’s two interim assistant city managers.
As found on the state website www.dca.ga.gov, the current Statesboro City Comprehensive Plan was created in 2009 and updated in 2014. So this is the year for a new plan and not just an update.
The deadline to complete the plan is in July. The city must first submit it to the Coastal Regional Planning Agency for its endorsement, and then to the Department of Community Affairs for final approval, Neal said.
In another distinction from the 2017 strategic planning, the comprehensive planning is overseen by a steering committee, which is also a requirement.
Committee members are Allen Muldrew, executive director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority; Cindy Steinmann, management analyst for the Bulloch County government; Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County; Ben McKay, assistant director of Georgia Southern University’s Business Innovation Group; James Byrd Sr., chair of the city’s Planning Commission; Jamie Grady, executive director of the Averitt Center for the Arts; Phyllis Thompson, president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce; Denise Mikell of the Statesboro Board of Realtors; and Steve Price, Georgia Department of Transportation area manager.
Public input sought
Public participation in developing a comprehensive plan is required of all cities and counties. Other required elements include setting both long-term and immediate goals, assessing needs and opportunities and including a community work program. The work program identifies projects and tracks progress.
“As part of the plan we will have to say where we are with our last five-year plan and 10-year plan, whether (projects) are still in progress, or whether they were abandoned altogether,” Neal said.
A local government can pick and choose whether to focus on future land use, economic development, capital projects, transportation and housing, he said. Statesboro’s planners intend to include all five elements. Existing plans, such as Statesboro’s 2017 strategic plan and transportation and economic development plans, can also be incorporated into the comprehensive document.
Anyone can take the city’s survey. The first question is whether you are a full-time resident of Statesboro, a student and part-time resident, reside in Bulloch County but outside Statesboro or live outside Bulloch County.
On the city’s homepage, www.statesboroga.gov, a notice about the comprehensive planning meetings currently appears as the top item under “Notices” on the right. Click on “Continue reading,” and the next page contains a link to the survey.
Paper copies of the survey will also be available at City Hall, Neal said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.