THOMASVILLE — Local- and state-level officials and a Thomasville historic preservation organization will keep an eye on possible legislation that, if approved by the General Assembly, could change the look of Georgia communities.

The majority of Georgia cities and counties have design standards, County Manager Mike Stephenson said Tuesday at a Thomas County commission meeting.

"It would be blight here, blight now," said Todd Edwards, Association County Commissioners of Georgia deputy legislative director. "We do not need a one-size-fits-all."

Such decisions should not be made at the state level, said District 173 state Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville.

The subject surfaced in the 2019 General Assembly session in the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee on which Taylor serves. The ACCG "strongly opposes" House Bill 302, which was seen as legislation to prevent local cities and counties from placing design restrictions on one and two-family homes. 

"We're a home rule state. That's why we have local governments." Taylor said.

The bill did not make it to the floor for a vote during the 2019 General Assembly session.

Sophia Latz, Thomasville Landmarks preservation programs manager, said Landmarks was aware of the bill going to the state House during the 2019 session.

“Design standards and guidelines provide local citizens and their governments the ability to choose how they want their city to grow," Latz said. "Standards aid economic development, improving the quality of life to attract businesses to spaces that people want to live and work in. They protect property values, which stabilizes the local housing market. Without design standards, local choice is removed and so, too, is the local citizens' ability to control their community's aesthetic development."

During the past couple of years Thomasville residents, have put in countless hours engaging in the comprehensive plan process, a plan for the development of Thomasville for the next 10 years, Latz said.

"All of that time and effort will be thrown away with the passage of this bill," she said. "Neighbors won't decide what happens to their community, developers will.”

Fortunately, Latz said, historic districts are a protected overlay, but mechanisms in place that allow neighborhoods to grow and develop in a sensitive and positive manner, so one day they, too, will be historic, are threatened.

"As historic districts are exempted from the bill, the bill acknowledges the importance and necessity of design guidelines for positive growth," Latz said. "This bill refuses to consider the specific needs of individual municipalities in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach."

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820 

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