Urban Design and Georgia's Medium-Sized Towns: Issues and Prospects
Hampton, Travis N.
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There are sixteen medium-sized rural towns in Georgia that are located outside a census-designated metropolitan area. The populations of these towns vary between 10,000 and 50,000 people with the majority located in the southern regions of the state. These towns have historically been consid ered the sub-regional nexuses for agriculture, transportation, and commerce that connect directly to the Georgia’s larger cities and regions. However, in recent decades along with other smaller-sized towns, some areas are experiencing job losses, outward migrations of younger people to larger cities, a lack of funding resources for new projects, and poverty rates which are often considerably higher than more urban/suburban areas. At the same time, these areas have also grown in sprawled patterns similar to larger metropolitan suburbs. This paper investigates this sprawled growth and focuses on whether any urban design methods or regulations have influenced the current development of these towns. This research is guided by three establishing questions. The first being, what constitutes the current urban morphology of these towns? Secondly, what are the aspirations and visions set forth by each of these towns? Thirdly, how has each town’s urban form been shaped over time through their primary regulatory documents to reflect or not reflect their aspirations and visions? The first question will be answered by employing a method of analysis similar to the urban morphology framework set out in Brenda Case Scheer’s essay “Anatomy of Sprawl.” This includes the mapping of static, elastic and campus tissues as well as resilient tissues with Google Earth and ESRI ArcGIS being the primary resources. The second question will be answered by a summary analysis and comparison of each town’s comprehensive planning documents available from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and other agencies. The third question will be answered by examining the primary regulatory documents of these towns (e.g. zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations, etc.) to determine how the urban form has been shaped over time legally. This will involve examining the codes of ordinances via Municode () or from an additional government resource and comparing the analysis. By comparing and contrasting each town’s existing urban form conditions, their comprehensive plans, and their regulatory frameworks, planners and urban designers can gain a better understanding as to what a medium-sized town’s strengths and weaknesses are from an urban design and planning standpoint. This can then suggest what the next steps are in reforming regulations and methods that will in turn influence development patterns for future growth and cultural vitality.