On February 4, 2020, the City of Douglas, along with the cities of Dallas, Duluth, Powder Springs, Vidalia, and Oconee County, received PlanFirst designations from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). This program recognizes and rewards communities that demonstrate successful implementation of their local comprehensive plan. City officials were honored by DCA and Gov. Brian Kemp as part of PlanFirst Day at the Capitol.
In order to be eligible, communities must be a Qualified Local Government, have an approved and adopted Service Delivery Strategy, be current on all required reports to DCA, and have met minimum performance standards for their regional as per its regional commission. Applicants are evaluated for community vision and goals; leadership; and participation in the development and successful implementation of the comprehensive plan. Participation in the program lasts three years and communities are encouraged to apply for re-designation. Incentives for the designation include (but are not limited to) statewide recognition, the ability to apply annually for Community Development Block Grant funds, bonus points for specific DCA programs, hands-on assistance from DCA staff for the implementation of community work program activities, and access to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) state loans at an interest rate that is reduced by 50 basis points (1/2 percent).
DCA staff members Ebony Simpson, Planning Outreach and Training Coordinator; and Tyler Reinagel, PhD, Director of the Office of Planning and Research, welcomed and congratulated the representatives from the six communities, who join more than 30 others across the state with the PlanFirst designation. Recalling 1989 legislation, which passed the Comprehensive Planning Act, DCA Commissioner Nunn stated, “Today we are here to celebrate not just our ability to plan but our ability to do something with that. If you are really going to build strong vibrant communities, you have to start with a plan – a vision of where we are going. The six communities we are going to recognize today join communities across the state who really have excelled and taken planning to the next level.”
Douglas was commended for its PlanFirst re-designation, and Commissioner Nunn said Douglas has recognized and realized the full potential of the program as well as taken advantage of the breadth of DCA resources.
“Although challenges occur in city planning, having a PlanFirst designation provides a competitive advantage, as well as, opportunities to leverage public and private partnerships,” says Charlie Davis, City Manager. “It’s about having a vision for tomorrow - we are planning for the next 50 years. All of the designations open you up for better funding.”
Douglas’ accomplishments include the expansion of gas and water services and the construction of a new City Hall and recreation facility.
About the Department of Community Affairs - The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) partners with communities to build strong and vibrant neighborhoods, commercial and industrial areas through community and economic development, local government assistance, and safe and affordable housing. Using state and federal resources, DCA helps communities spur private job creation, implement planning, develop downtowns, generate affordable housing solutions and promote volunteerism. DCA also helps qualified Georgians with low and moderate incomes buy homes, rent housing and prevent foreclosure and homelessness. For more information, visit www.dca.ga.gov.
Tyler Reinagel (PhD, DCA Director of the Office of Planning and Research), Michael Hudson (Douglas Utilities Director), Charles Davis (City Manager), and Christopher Nunn (DCA Commissioner).
Representatives from Georgia cities and counties attend PlanFirst Day at the Capital with Governor Brian Kemp.