Upson County Planning Commission members recently attended training held by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia – Athens campus. The one-day training session entitled, “Citizen Planners – Making Local Land Use Decisions,” is intended to provide a basic understanding of Georgia planning law and zoning principles. Of the thirty-four attendees, those from Upson County were Planning Commission Chairman Sidney Beach and Planning Commissioners Ron Johnston, Freddie Harp and Joel Pitts. Surveyor Gary Self attended as a private citizen. Citizen planners from McDonough, Greene County, Putnam County, Newnan and Sandy Springs were also in the class.
The planning and zoning workshop topics covered issues and topics including Georgia planning and zoning law, basic planning and zoning terminology, qualifications of a planning commissioner, effectiveness, conflicts of interest, and open meetings requirements. As part of the training, small groups were assigned the task of analyzing rezoning and zoning ordinance case studies, answering specific questions and discussing the various factors that would go into a planning commissioner’s decisions about the case.
The trainer for the day’s sessions was Chrissy Marlowe of the Vincent Institute staff, whose experience includes eleven years working for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, years of training experience and nine years as an Athens-Clarke County Planning Commissioner. The Carl Vinson Institute provides training and educational programming to a wide range of associations representing various Georgia local government professions including county and municipal clerks, finance officers, public works officials, human resource professionals and code enforcement officers.
About the training, Commissioner Harp expressed that it was really a great class, that he picked up a great bit of information that he hadn’t known before, even after almost four years on the Planning Commission. He felt it was well worth the time going. Chairman Beach liked the benefit of the interfacing with other planning commissioners from around Georgia.
About the role of citizen planners, instructor Marlowe stated that, “Planning Commissioners serve a great purpose in Georgia’s cities and counties by being a part of the democratic due process and representing the citizens of their communities…. This training class gives commissioners an opportunity to share and learn about this important work with others in the state, as well as learn about trends in planning and the growth of our communities.”
The Upson County Planning Commissioners are volunteers, appointed by the Upson County Board of Commissioners, for three year terms. The Planning Commission meets monthly to consider rezoning, special exception and variance requests.