"Keep it rural": the politics of planning for smart growth in South Fulton County, Georgia

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Christianson, Eric
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Carlton W. Basmajian
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Community and Regional Planning

Community and regional planning is a professional field of study aimed at assessing the ever-changing socioeconomic and physical environments of our communities and planning for their future. Planners evaluate and seize opportunities to understand and solve problems. Most planners work at the local level, but they are concerned with issues that affect the world: the preservation and enhancement of the quality of life in a community, the protection of the environment, the promotion of equitable economic opportunity; and the management of growth and change of all kinds.

The Department of Community and Regional Planning was established in 1978 when it was split from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Community Planning.

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The politics and practice of planning exurban areas in the United States has been a major focus of debate since the 1950s. Urban growth management and more recently smart growth have arisen in response to the sprawling forms of development that are characteristic of most North American cities. While these movements represent the development of a broad set of tools for directing growth and preserving agriculturally and biologically important land, political and institutional barriers to their implementation remain strong. A more robust understanding of the political environment in which plans with strong growth management are enacted and implemented is necessary if we are to find solutions to the problems that dominant growth patters have caused.

This paper examines the history of a series of attempts to pass and implement growth management in South Fulton County from the mid 1990s through the incorporation of the City of Chattahoochee Hills in 2007. Despite being in a prime location for new low-density suburbs, over the past two decades, various groups have worked enacted strict land use controls mandating cluster development and preserving up to 80% of its total land area in agricultural and nature preserves. This paper uses a mixed-method approach based on archival research as well as oral history. Understanding how this community succeeded will contribute to the understanding of how alternative development is possible.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2014