Blueprints team offering ideas for Moreland's future

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Georgia Tech students talk about connectivity issues in Moreland during the Blueprints meeting on Saturday. Clockwise from front, center, are Lynne Miller, Carol Chancey, Mary Ann Cauthen,  Councilman Dick Ford, Deanna Murphy, Kenny Thompson, Chris Maddox and Steven Strutman.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER
winston@newnan.com
A team of students from the Georgia Institute of Technology is developing a mission for Moreland’s future – in conjunction with the town’s residents.
The Blueprints for Successful Communities team held its second meeting at the Moreland Mill, using display boards to explain their plans for the town’s square, for ways to connect various parts of town and for the town’s future once sewerage comes to the area. One more meeting will be held before the project is complete.
Mayor Josh Evans offered greetings at the meeting. Also present were two council members — Allyn Bell and Dick Ford — and Town Clerk Jimmy Haynes.
Blueprints is sponsored by the Georgia Conservancy. The statewide organization works with students and faculty at Georgia Tech to formulate plans for various issues in towns and communities across the state. Senoia was one of the first cities in Georgia to go through the Blueprints process.
Through Blueprints, the Conservancy also connects towns with professionals who donate their services to help with projects.
Blueprints offers a look into the future. “Change is always a little scary – off-putting for us, but change is inevitable. Change happens every day. Change happens whether we want it to or not,” said Katherine Moore, who directs Blueprints for the Georgia Conservancy.

Moore noted the first Blueprints workshop was held in Moreland “several weeks ago” and offered “some very rough conceptual ideas.”

A purpose of that initial meeting was “to get a conversation going” about “what you like,what you don’t like about your community” and determine which directions might be pursued in thinking about Moreland’s future, Moore said.

Moore said input from the Saturday meeting – and from online comments – will be incorporated into the Blueprints study. The latest additions will be available on the Blueprints website at: http://www.georgiaconservancy.org/growth/blueprints-news/moreland-blueprints-preview.html

“This is a public involvement process. We want to put that information out there,” Moore said.

“We’re still in the draft concept stage, but were moving along,” Moore said.

“We will come back some weeks from now and really begin to firm those ideas up,” Moore told the crowd of about 40. “We need you to be very picky, to ask a lot of questions.”

Graduate student presentations focused on three areas:

• A reworked town square. Students have suggested moving the Erskine Caldwell Birthplace to the God’s Little Acre farm/ garden area at the south end of town and moving or shifting the playground to create room for a bandstand behind the county fire station.

Richard Dagenhart, the professor working with the team, said students look at the town square with an eye toward getting “the town green going as a central point” for the community.

Students Nick Coffee and Canon Manley talked about how the bandstand could serve as a focal point on the square and camouflage the back of the fire station, which faces the mill.

“The whole idea is to solve the back condition. It’s important to pay attention to fronts and backs. The bandstand is going to be implemented to solve that problem,” Manley said.

“You can have gatherings of people. You can have performance events,” Coffee said. Manley said the bandstand could be used as a reception area or a conduit to the square from Moreland United Methodist Church when there is a wedding or other event.

“The square was a central piece and could be a central piece again. It is trying to be now, but we need to help it,” Moore said. The student’ ideas create “more of a green and more of a civic type of space,” Moore said.

Local resident Joyce Evans said people may want the playground to stay on the square. “A lot of people like to stay here in the park. They like to have their children close by,” she said.

Mary Ann Cauthen echoed those thought. She spoke of “several families that have family reunions in the summer” and how children play on the nearby playground in sight of parents visiting with relatives in the mill.

Daniel Braswell said there should be some trees on the square to “keep kind of a rural feel.” Cauthen noted there were mimosa trees around the square years ago.

Braswell also addressed several design tactics that could be used to improve drainage on the square. Dagenhart said water from the Methodist church west is running into the square and noted “the streets are sloped toward the square.”

• Connecting various parts of Moreland, particularly the downtown area and the garden area. “That’s vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle connectivity,” Moore said.

Part of that process was addressing U.S. Highway 29. Students suggested planting trees along the highway and using a giant footprint shaped crosswalk symbol to slow traffic and give the area more of a sense of community.

Dagenhart said the highway does not have to be “just something that passes through” the center of Moreland.

Moore expanded on that idea. Currently, the highway “slashes through Moreland,” she said. Moore said the Blueprints plans make the highway “more a part of Moreland rather than a thing on its own that cuts through the community.”

Chris Maddox of the connectivity team identified three issues – access, safety and a lack of identity. Although there are some sidewalks in Moreland, there is not a unified sidewalk system.

“You really can’t walk from one side of town to the other,” Maddox observed.

Sidewalks and crosswalks can help “give you a safe way to get around the city” and get children to and from school without getting in cars, Maddox said.

He suggested the area around the boardwalk – which is used by some youngsters to get to school each day — be enlivened with birdhouses on trees. “I think the birdhouses on the boardwalk would be wonderful,” Cauthen said.

He said Moreland suffers from “a lack of identity” for motorists from elsewhere passing through. “The people just breezing through on the highway don’t know,” Maddox said. “We want people to know when they come through Moreland.”

Maddox said a goal is to get people to slow down so they can “see what this great town has to offer.”

Student Kenny Thompson said “a really good tree canopy along either side of the road” can help communicate one is “entering a rural town, knowing you are in a place.”

Thompson suggested “some kind of tree planting program, hopefully fully funded.” Seedlings might be donated and given to homeowners to plant.

Maddox responded to a question about traffic signals. He said the highway probably meets state requirements for traffic volume, but the side streets probably do not. Dagenhart said each signal costs about $100,000 when maintenance issues are considered.

Computer modified photographs showed various places in town with the ideas in place. One showed compared the current entrance to town with a typical metal sign with a version showing a monument style welcome sign and an avenue of trees.

“You know you’ve arrived in a small town, and it gives you a sense of identity,” Moore said.

• A master plan for the town in anticipation of development of a large industrial tract that runs from the town limits north to Interstate 85.

“When sewer comes, the world changes,” Dagenhart said. He said Moreland could quickly become “a bundle of gated compounds” unless plans are made ahead of time.

The plans developed by the student would allow “the new part of Moreland to be very similar to the old part” and “keep Moreland as a small rural town” in its ambience “even though it may triple in population,” Dagenhart said.

Moore noted that the first workshop drew lots of comments about the need for “more services in town.” “To have more services like a store or a restaurant, we have to have people,” Moore said.

She said the town plan group had some plans that could lead to “more life” and “greater activity.” She said the students developed “some great ideas that accommodate future (growth) but help Moreland remain Moreland.”

The students presented a street plan and a “a street types plan which is separate from the master street plan,” student Susanna Lee said. The street type concept would allow certain types of development based on what kinds of street it fronts.

“Uses correspond to the street” rather than to an arbitrary line, Lee said. A variety of lot sizes would allow for diverse types of development in the town.

The master plan outlines the allowed locations for streets. While the city cannot force a developer to put a street in place, the city can specify where streets will be permitted.

The plans creates a “built in form of a network,” Dagenhart said. The plan allows for “a combination of big lots/ small lots, big blocks/ small blocks but in an orderly way,” he explained.

The process would be “simple to use,” and the city would “end up with something that looks pretty much like Moreland does now,” Dagenhart said.

Deanna Murphy, an urban designer with the Georgia Conservancy, noted there had been “a lot of support for the trees along Highway 29.”

With regard to the master plan, student Logan Turra said there is “a lot of support for the plan overall” but some voices “not being supportive for the smaller lots” allowed in the plan, even though there are many lots of similar size in Moreland already.

“Scale and comparison is sometimes hard to judge,” Moore observed. “If we’re talking about smaller lots for Moreland ,we’re not necessarily taking about small.”

She said by the next meeting, “a few illustrations or pictures” could help make the message clearer.

“We got good information today that’s telling us which way to go,” Moore said.

She said the next meeting will also be scheduled for a Saturday morning. “What are almost final recommendations” will be presented at that gathering.

Moore said the students will soon be at work on the next phase of Moreland’s Blueprints process. “They’re going to go back and begin refining,” she said. “They’re going to start narrowing things down.”

“These students are awesome,” Mary Ann Cauthen said at the end of the meeting.

Joyce Evans addressed the students directly. “We appreciate y’all,” she said. “We really do.”



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