THE GEORGIA PLANNING ACT OF 1989: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMUNITY PRESERVATION
GEORGIA OFFICE OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION
In 1987, Governor Joe Frank Harris appointed a 35-member Growth Strategies Commission and charged it with the responsibility of developing a blueprint for Georgia's future growth and development. The Commission's recommendations and the resulting Georgia Planning Act of 1989 take into consideration the history, culture and traditions of Georgia and affirm the importance of planning for Georgia's economic future and quality of life. Importantly, it maintains home rule and local autonomy over local matters while recognizing the need for regional cooperation and planning. The passage of the Georgia Planning Act of 1989 marked a watershed in the history of planning and development in Georgia. The implementation of this legislation presents an unparalleled opportunity for preservation advocates in Georgia. Under the Act each local government in the state will produce a comprehensive local plan to guide growth and development in that community. As one of the six required planning elements "Historic Resources" must be considered in every plan.
The keystone of the Georgia Planning Act is a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated planning process conducted at the local, regional, and state levels. To ensure uniformity and consistency, the Department of Community Affairs is charged with responsibility for the overall management of this planning process, including the development of planning standards and procedures for local and regional plans, the development of planning and review procedures for Regionally Important Resources and Developments of Regional Impact and the development of a mediation process to resolve inter-jurisdictional conflicts. Other state agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources and the Regional Development Centers have certain responsibilities under the law. Together, these efforts encourage a prosperous future which is making a stronger emphasis on region-wide programs, new public/private sector initiatives, increased cooperation between local governments and more coordination between state agencies.
THE LOCAL COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
The Georgia Planning Act put a framework in place which provides for a "bottom up" planning process. Planning will begin at the local level, with all local governments being required to prepare plans between October 1, 1990 and October 1, 1995. Minimum Planning Standards and Procedures have been developed to govern the preparation, adoption and implementation of local plans. Since Georgia is composed of many diverse communities, the complexity of a community's comprehensive plan will be tailored to its needs. The minimum planning standards are based on three simple questions:
During the planning process these three questions are applied to each of the six planning elements: population; economic development; natural and historic resources; community facilities; housing; and land use. The Historic Resources Element of a comprehensive plan is described in the Minimum Planning Standards as follows:
Within a community there will be areas of significant historic resources. An inventory and assessment should be made of these resources and a generalized location map of these resources should be prepared. The Department of Community Affairs working with the Department of Natural Resources can provide valuable assistance to local governments in identifying the type and location of these resources. Strategies should be included in the comprehensive plan for the preservation, redevelopment, use and/or protection of any significant resource identified. Significant or historic resources may include, but are not limited to, the following items: landmark buildings, commercial districts, residential districts, rural resources, and archaeological and cultural sites
PREPARING THE HISTORIC RESOURCES ELEMENT OF THE PLAN
A community's plan may be produced by local government staff, the Regional Development Center, consultants or citizens' advisory teams appointed by the local government. No matter who is responsible for preparing the plan, public participation is critical to a successful effort. This is especially true for the historic resources element since planners, staff or consultants are probably less familiar with historic preservation planning than with other elements of the plan. The public's involvement can make a difference in helping to preserve a community's historic resources. The coordinated planning process requires that two public hearings be held, one at the beginning of the process and one when the plan is finished. Attendance at these meetings is a good place to start, but may not be enough. Preservation advocates can help shape the historic resources element of the plan by providing information for the plan:
-on resources and their significance;
-on development pressures and other forces that threaten historic resources;
-on opportunities to use historic properties to reach other community goals (such as tourism, housing, or downtown development);
-on preservation programs and techniques available; and
-on where to go for more information or help;
-by participating in the planning process:
-by attending public meetings;
-by informing others about this opportunity for preservation;
-by helping build consensus on the community's desires and goals for preservation; and
-by serving on a committee, task force or advisory team working on the plan.
Without this active involvement by the community, the historic resources element may meet the minimum planning standards, but do little to preserve historic resources. A community's comprehensive plan is its blueprint for the future. Georgia preservation advocates have the opportunity now to see that historic preservation is made an integral part of the state's future growth and development.
MODEL COMMUNITY PRESERVATION PLANNING PROCESS
The following five steps outline the process any community should follow in developing a comprehensive historic preservation plan. The Department of Natural Resources's Office of Historic Preservation provides survey and planning assistance to communities throughout Georgia. Technical assistance and limited funding are available for developing local preservation plans, conducting surveys, National Register evaluation and registration, developing protection strategies, and information and education activities.
LOCAL PRESERVATION PLANNING QUESTIONS
These questions are designed to illustrate the model local preservation planning process. Answering these questions in sequence will lead the community through the planning process and assure a comprehensive approach that integrates preservation into broader development plans, including land use and regulation, capital improvements, transportation, economic development, housing, open space and recreation.
1. What historic properties exist? Where are they located? In what way do they relate to the past and future development of the community?
2. Have the identified properties been adequately documented and evaluated according to accepted criteria? Are there properties or entire groups of properties that have not been identified, documented or evaluated?
3. What preservation activities (public and private) have already taken place? What activities are in process? How effective have they been?
4. How and in what way are the community's historic properties threatened? What opportunities for preservation exist or will exist in the future?
5. What are the community's goals for its historic properties? What other community goals could preservation assist (downtown revitalization, neighborhood stabilization, housing, tourism, etc.)? What is the public's viewpoint? How can the public be involved in developing preservation goals?
6. To what extent is preservation part of the community's overall plan for its development? Does the community intend to integrate preservation into other aspects of its planning and regulation? Will the community's plans conflict with preserving its significant historic properties? If so, how will this conflict be resolved?
7. How will the community achieve its preservation goals? When? Who will be responsible for achieving them, and in what specific ways? How will these actions be funded?
8. Given the identified historic properties and the present level of preservation activity, which strategies and actions are most important? Most urgent? Which are least important now?
9. Who will be responsible for implementing this plan? Who will update it, and when?
Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) provides historic resource data to the Department of Community Affairs for use in coordinated planning. This data is then sent to the communities by Department of Community Affairs. OHP assists community residents, local governments and the Regional Development Centers by providing advice on how to prepare the historic resources element of the plan, workshops on historic resource planning, and funding through grants and survey contracts to collect historic resources data or prepare the historic resources element of the comprehensive plan. The Department of Community Affairs provides data for planning and general in formation on the requirements of the Georgia Planning Act and the Minimum Planning Standards. It reviews and certifies completed plans.
Local preservation advocates should participate in this planning process to ensure that preservation of historic resources is part of the community's plans. Preservationists can make a difference in helping to preserve your community's historic resources by understanding the local planning process and making sure that their community's historic resources are well represented as the process moves forward. The planning process will take place with or without preservation advocates. It is up to them to get involved in the process. The Office of Historic Preservation is helping them participate effectively and implementing the community's plans for preservation.
With a planning process developed and historic resource data available the Georgia SHPO was able to react quickly when the Georgia Planning Act was passed, in order to ensure that historic resources are an integral part of community planning throughout the state.
Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008