Ask yourself which of the following growth patterns would you like to see Pickens County achieve?
1. Nothing more than we have now. Keep Pickens County the jewel that it is.
2. A bunch of unique shops and restaurants on Main Street with a vibrant atmosphere where people stroll the streets.
3. A four-lane with more big box retailers and a busier, bigger road leading from downtown Jasper back to the four-lane along with new businesses on the connecting streets.
4. Quite a few subdivisions locating in large undisturbed tracts, trading some of those trees for houses and people – maybe 1,000 new houses and 25,000-plus more people.
We’ll conjecture, quite a few people picked number one. This is a great area to live so let’s not mess it up.
We’ll bet quite a few people (maybe the most) picked number 2 as a cool downtown with energy is something we enviously eye in surrounding areas.
We are confident very few people picked 3 or 4. In fact, many longtime residents are probably cringing at the idea of more big box stores, congested roads and loss of greenspace.
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but holding out hope that growth never arrives is not really an option.
As fast as the Atlanta area is sprawling north with the Braves stadium now on our side of town and new lanes to help people get further north faster on Highway 575, it’s coming and will reach us one day, whether we want it or not.
Trying to slam the door on growth would be like trying to keep a discount store out of a commercial spot in the Grandview area; you’ll see the same result just on a bigger scale.
The problem right off the bat discussing development is when people say they want to see growth what they really want are stores, restaurants and retail areas they like but none of the fuss or traffic woes or congestion. Reality Check: this approach is not going to happen, any more than a new puppy will arrive without chewing, going on the rug or whining.
Conspiracy theorists may believe that there is some hidden force holding Jasper back or that the mayor is subverting growth. In reality the blame, if there is any, does not lie with city hall. The fact is businesses aren’t gobbling up downtown buildings, a’ la Blue Ridge or Ball Ground, because investors and entrepreneurs lack confidence in the town’s business potential at this point. That may be changing.
Mayor John Weaver expressed recently that while he often ends up in the crosshairs of those dreaming of growth, he is not running people off as they are not knocking on the door to begin with right now.
A better theory of what is keeping the brakes on growth for the time being is lack of sewage and water hampers residential growth and more population is needed to entice businesses. Woodstock’s cool downtown scene is walking distance to hundreds of residential spaces. It takes a lot of people to draw from to support unique restaurants and shops.
As we reported last week, Jasper is near its capacity with both wastewater and water. The county lacks sewage infrastructure entirely. Until this changes, there will be a big restricter plate with development.
We have talked to several people with expertise in development lately. Among the comments is that at this point, our county may not have the “rooftops” (population) to catch the eye of entrepreneurs looking to locate new businesses.
It seems Jasper and Pickens have reached that proverbial fork in the road. The one path requires expanding water and sewage to accommodate residential growth which will in turn drive commercial growth, both the kind people want and the kind that jams up traffic when you are trying to get home on a Friday night.
The other fork, shall we call it the one less traveled, would be to hold the growth wave back, however much is possible by having the city and county working together on water and sewage and knowing that this the best bet for controlling whatever development comes next.