Answering some Fayette Visioning FAQs
Bob Ross and Trey Ragsdale
As the visioning process continues to move forward, new phases bring new interest regarding where we are in the process, how citizens can engage, and what results have emerged so far. We’d like to take this opportunity to answer some of those questions here.
Where are we in the visioning process?
Our community is still early in the process, having completed the first of three phases in January. The result of Phase 1 was a Competitive Assessment Report which compiled the results of extensive background data research along with public input from surveys, focus groups, interviews and community leadership meetings. The report compared public perceptions with actual data in areas such as education, crime and economic well-being.
Public input has included diverse focus groups of young professionals, senior citizens, small and large businesses and a wide cross-section of community and non-profit leaders.
The initial public online survey garnered approximately 1,500 responses from a cross section of Fayette zip codes, gender, race and age demographics, which is estimated to represent well over 750 hours of thoughtful input from the community.
This response rate for similar surveys puts Fayette in the top 10 percent of response rates seen by nationally respected consulting group, Market Street Services, Inc.
Were there results from Phase 1 where public perceptions differed from the current data?
Yes, for example, related to population growth, many Fayette County residents indicated a perception that growth is rampant and threatens the quality of life of residents, while the data shows that between 2006 and 2012, annual growth rates have decreased to less than 1 percent per year. Since 2006, Fayette County has only captured .7 percent of total metro population growth and has slowed to the point of near stagnation.
Another area where perception does not match actual data is in the area of safety and crime. Public input indicated that crime is a growing concern for residents in Fayette County, and many felt it is the greatest challenge for the county to overcome.
However, crime statistics tell a less acute story of criminal activity, with one example being property crimes, which have trended downward over the last 20 years.
Public input responses also suggested perceptions that Fayetteville has a larger crime problem than Peachtree City, but in actuality, property crimes have fallen drastically in Fayetteville over the last decade, while Peachtree City property crimes have increased slightly.
In addition to property crime, violent crime data also shows the overall safety of the community. Compared to benchmark counties, Fayette County’s violent crime rate per 100,000 people is 58.1 as opposed to Forsyth (64.8 per 100,000) and Williamson (Tenn.)(91.7 per 100,000), and is significantly lower than metro Atlanta (408.6 per 100,000). Incidents of violent crime peaked In Fayette County in 2008 (75.2 per 100,000) but have since fallen.
Were there areas in the report where public perception and data were in alignment?
Absolutely. The public perception that Fayette County has an aging population is well supported by demographic data. In fact, Fayette’s age distribution is being squeezed from both sides — an increasing older population (both the 65 and over and the 45 to 64 age groups) and a decreasing younger population.
In the state of Georgia, in 2011, only Pulaski County had a lower birth rate than Fayette. The report notes that the “lack of births not only impacts population growth, but there are fewer persons with lifelong attachment to the community.”
Another area of consistency between public perception and data is that significant out-migration is occurring from Fayette to Coweta County. In fact, from 2005 to 2010, Fayette lost 3,062 residents to Coweta. Many comments gathered from public input suggested that Coweta County is more affordable and has more options that appeal to young families than Fayette.
Who are the leaders driving this Fayette visioning process, what’s next, and how can the public stay involved?
The visioning process is determined to be an inclusive process, seeking diverse public input and direction throughout the three stages of the process. It is being guided by a steering committee comprised of public and private sector leaders from across the county.
Representatives from every municipality and county government entity, the local school system, law enforcement, local non-profits, private small business, large industry, community support organizations, faith-based organizations, and higher education are all included on the committee. A full listing of the steering committee members as well as the full Competitive Assessment Report can be found at www.FayetteVision.org.
The next step is Phase 2, in which a community vision statement will be developed from the Phase 1 results and additional public input. The vision statement seeks to answer the question, “Where do we want to be?”
As part of the visioning phase, an online forum has been created which can be accessed at http://fayettevision.mindmixer.com to gather specific ideas and suggestions of what the community would like to see moving forward.
This online forum allows participants to give comments, rate ideas and engage in discussion and dialogue with other participants. Content and questions are added to MindMixer every two to three weeks, so participants are encouraged to visit the site regularly.
In addition, Fayette residents are invited to give input at a public meeting to be held Wednesday, March 5, 2014 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sandy Creek High School auditorium in Tyrone.
The evening timeframe is designed to allow commuters and working residents the ability to participate in the process while still encouraging citizens from all sectors of Fayette County to attend, including high school students and parents, seniors and retirees, educators, young professionals, community and business leaders, and public and private sector representatives.
For more information, please e-mail info@FayetteVision.org.
[Bob Ross and Trey Ragsdale are co-chairs of the Fayette Visioning Initiative Steering Committee.]