After being delayed several months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners is looking to relaunch the Hickory Flat area study.

Principal Planner Margaret Stallings and Senior Planner Chris Luly said at the Board of Commissioners most recent work session that certain elements of the plan had undergone a bit of a retooling while on hiatus during the summer months, while also preparing for a relaunch of the study.

“We’ve played with different terminology, reintroduction, reboot. The idea is that we would start again from the beginning so that we could engage more people in the process,” Stallings said.

Luly reminded the commissioners how far the project had gotten before it had to be put on hold, including a couple of advisory group meetings and a public input session in January. He said the map that had been put together early on remained the main focus area of study for the plan, remaining focused on the core area of Hickory Flat.

“We’re still looking to involve as many folks as possible,” Luly said. “We want to get the older folks, maybe retirees, we want to get the parents of school children in the area and we also want to involve those kids at the schools.”

As with the Southwest Cherokee area plan that came together in 2019, Luly said the plan is to get as much input as possible from as many people as possible, in order to create a plan that best fits the wants and needs of those in the community. He said the county is working on getting the advisory group back together, while getting more local residents into the group to voice their opinions alongside area businesses and civic leaders. Commission Chairman Harry Johnston put forth the suggestion of potentially bringing in residents from the immediate vicinity of the core area.

One major change Luly pointed out was that the study would be going virtual, holding the meetings online on a website the county is in the process of constructing for this specific purpose.

“Having a virtual meeting really opens it up, allows us to get all the voices of Hickory Flat,” he said.

For those who might not have access to the online platforms, Luly said there are plans to relaunch putting out information at the library in Hickory Flat, where residents can come in and fill out a sheet with their thoughts and opinions that study officials pick up on a regular basis to ensure more voices are being heard. He added that the current plan is to hold virtual meetings on Oct. 21, Dec. 2 and Jan. 13.

After Luly finished his presentation, the only additional question the board had regarding the study’s relaunch came from Commissioner Corey Ragsdale.

“The virtual meetings, are they going to be like we did for the trail study recently? Is it going to be Zoom meetings or something live, or is it just going to be they go to the website and fill out material?,” Ragsdale asked.

“The general public ones will be more they go to the website and do a series of activities,” Stallings responded. “The advisory committee would be done by Zoom.”

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