Locust Grove starts planning with help of LCI grant

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Locust Grove is getting a financial boost in its efforts to improve downtown and surrounding areas.

The Atlanta Regional Commission recently awarded Locust Grove a $92,000 Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) grant to study its options and come up with a workable plan. The grant requires a 20 percent match, meaning the city will kick in $23,000 to bring the total up to $115,000. Locust Grove’s portion comes from its hotel-motel tax.

The Locust Grove grant was a portion of $800,000 awarded to various municipalities in the announcement last month. According to the ARC’s web site, these funds “will help these communities create new plans for quality growth and help develop innovative policies that support more vibrant, connected communities.”

Once the study and plan is complete, Locust Grove will be eligible for additional LCI funding for transportation projects needed to implement its plan.

All funding for LCI grants comes from federal transportation dollars, and it is used “to devise strategies that reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by better connecting homes, shops and offices,” according to the ARC.

In a statement specifically about the Locust Grove grant, the ARC noted that it will help the city “manage commercial and residential development pressure and guide growth for the town center and areas adjacent to the Tanger Outlet Mall and I-75 interchange. The study will focus on development plans for vacant tracts of land, as well as infill development in the town center, while also preserving and enhancing the historic character of Locust Grove and improving connectivity throughout the study area.”

Locust Grove city manager Tim Young said that while the initial grant is for the purpose of putting together a plan, certain components had to already be in place to be eligible for the funding. The city already has a land-use plan in effect and recently approved a master concept plan for its municipal complex, a key feature of the future tie-in between the historic downtown district and the Bill Gardner Parkway corridor.

“The crux of our study is to try to connect the interchange area, with its more suburban characteristics, to our historic downtown and form a more walkable, live/work/play type of environment,” said Young.

City officials are now in the process of getting familiar with the ARC’s procedures for moving forward and are looking to retain consulting assistance by the end of April so the planning process can start in June.

All of the other cities in the county have been awarded LCI grants. Hampton is finishing up its study now, Young said, and Stockbridge recently approved a plan that was the result of its latest study.

The goal now is to have most of the plan done by the end of this year, then the adoption of ordinances and other necessary tasks should be wrapped up by July of 2016 so the city can look toward securing more funds and implementing its program.