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Regional Commission plans through 2035
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A plan to guide development and growth in northeast Georgia through 2035 had an airing before civic, community and business leaders on Thursday in Oxford.

The plan, prepared for the 12-county district served by the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, was presented to stakeholders including mayors and representatives of authorities from various local cities. They were given the opportunity to discuss their visions for the region in 2035 in regards to three general issues: how northeast Georgia can be described today, what its concerns and priorities should be and how the stakeholders would like to see the region in the future.

Current regional issues identified by the commission's planners include below-average education attainment rate, cost-burdened households, work displacement and a lack of transportation.

The stakeholder groups were given time to sift through the issues and write down their answers either on paper or up on maps of the region, allowing them to visualize their plan for the future.

Each group voiced its concerns and many of the groups had similar ideas. The main ideas included expanding agriculture and related industries, sustaining and diversifying the economy, providing opportunities for activities so that residents can stay in the region instead of traveling to Atlanta, and reducing costs of housing.

Roger Sheridan, mayor of Newborn, voiced additional concerns at the end of the meeting about water. He contends the city of Atlanta may want the region's water after its battle with Alabama and Florida over Lake Lanier.

"We must protect our water resources," he said.

The regional commission planners said they have a section drawn up for water assessment and is looking into how to keep control of the valuable resources already possessed by the region.

Today's session was the first of three, according to Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry.

The commission's goal is to have a final draft in November and to adopt a plan in January 2012.