WARNER ROBINS -- Russell Parkway and Ga. 96 are busy highways that join Interstate 75, yet those exits are curiously barren.
Now a council of local governments hopes to change that. The I-75 Corridor Committee is made up of representatives from Warner Robins, Perry, Fort Valley, Houston County, Peach County and Byron.
Warner Robins and Perry city councils recently passed resolutions supporting the initiative, and more governments are expected to formalize their participation soon. But even the bodies that haven’t passed resolutions yet are already involved with the council, which has been meeting for six months.
The group is spearheaded by Flint Energies, with the aim to get the governing bodies working together to promote an area that appears ripe for growth. The effort also includes the Ga. 247 Connector and Perry Parkway exits. All of them except for the Perry Parkway exit are in Peach County.
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Jay Flesher, Flint’s economic development manager, said the group’s first goal is to get all of the bodies working together to promote growth on the corridor.
On Russell Parkway, for example, three entities come into play at the I-75 exit. Part of it is in Warner Robins, part is in Fort Valley, and all of it is in Peach County.
“You have three governing bodies right there that set policy to what zoning could be,” Flesher said. “That’s where the rub is. For someone who comes in and wants to develop that area, who’s governing the land that you are talking about?”
Also, Byron could potentially provide services to the area even though it isn’t in the city limits.
It’s not that the corridor council wants to have each exit all under one governing entity, Flesher said. The key aim is to have each government involved, all on the same page, on how the area should be developed. With a cohesive plan, Flesher envisions much more than some convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.
He sees a vast development that could include housing, food, entertainment -- and more. That starts, he said, with creating a common vision and settling on who will provide services to what area.
Even as the committee has been meeting, it can be perplexing to determine which entity might provide services to a particular area.
“How can we expect people to come in and develop if we can’t even figure it out?” Flesher asked. “That was the big key in getting these folks together so there is a common effort.”
David Cleveland, a Peach County businessman, serves on the Peach County Development Authority and Flint Energies board. He has been attending the corridor meetings and believes it can be the push needed to generate growth in the area.
His hope is that through the council, the governing bodies can hash out how services will provided to the area before developers come calling.
“We didn’t want everybody to be competing against each other,” he said. “We want the decision to already be made.”
Cleveland cited the popular Tanger Outlet area in Locust Grove as one possible type of development that could be done.
Right now, all Flint is asking of the governments is to attend the council’s monthly meetings. At some point, Flesher said, a study may be done on how to best develop the corridor, but he hopes grants can be secured to pay for that. The council could also take the lead in a unified marketing effort on behalf of the local governments.
Peach County Commission Chairman Melvin Walker has been attending the meetings and sees great potential.
“I think an organized effort like the one we have now is going to be good,” he said. “It’s an activity we should have started a long time ago.”