Canton Mayor Bill Grant virtually addressed residents of Canton on Thursday, highlighting the accomplishments in 2020, while looking forward to future plans that will help the city grow further.
Grant praised the efforts of city staff, city leaders, and emergency personnel during the ongoing pandemic, who, he said went above and beyond normal duties to protect the residents.
He highlighted the city’s new “roadmap for success,” which spells out guiding principles to help city staff and the community work together for quality growth. The roadmap, which was created with the help of city residents, was approved by council in December.
Grant also highlighted accomplishments in 2020 that conform to the goals of the roadmap, the first being “creating great neighborhoods.” Grant listed a housing needs assessment and market study, the housing committee led by Councilman Shawn Tolan, local option sales tax funding to resurface streets, issuing 481 residential construction permits, 459 residential certificates of occupancy, and the further developments of Academy & Main, which will be bring new residential development to downtown, were all key factors in developing housing in Canton last year, and will continue to be factors moving forward this year, he said.
Grant praised the diversity and inclusion within Canton. Some of the key highlights in ensuring the city celebrates this diversity was the creation of a citizen participation application, which will encourage new thought and volunteers for all boards and commissions, the launching of the diversity and inclusion task force, the translation of key documents for the city’s Spanish speaking community, and the launching of the public safety citizens advisory board with the help of councilman Will Carlan.
Praise was also given for advancing regional economic success through the growth of the Northside Hospital Cherokee campus, the rezoning of 50 acres along Knox Bridge Highway for the creation of a new corporate park, a new tourism study for Canton this year, and master plan revisions to The Bluffs to make the area more attractive for tourism and development.
Grant added that future plans to advance regional economic success could include annexation discussions for the city’s first winery village, possible master plan revisions to Riverstone to include a crystal lagoon, public beach, residential condominiums, commercial developments, and new restaurants.
The mayor also highlighted the New Canton tourism program, which will grow regional travel opportunities in the city, as well as the license to recovery program for locally owned small businesses, which delivered $175,000 of economic impact last year. This program also allowed for the issuance of 95 commercial certificates of occupancy, and 166 new business licenses were created last year.
Grant also mentioned the growth of Canton, which saw many businesses open in both The Mill on Etowah and downtown in 2020, as well as this year. He also recognized the downtown gift card matching program, which invested $40,000 into downtown businesses during the pandemic.
The mayor then highlighted the work of councilwoman Sandra McGrew, which led to the city adding information to its codes and websites to encourage planting native species and landscape designs for development throughout the city. Councilman Nick Estes’ work toward bids for the construction of the water pollution and control plant was highlighted as well.
Councilwoman JoEllen Wilson’s work with transportation improvements including an award for design funding on improvements on State Route 140 on Riverstone and Marietta Highway was spotlighted as well, along with councilwoman Brooke Schmidt’s Railroad Street mural project, which will begin within the next few days.
The completion of several parks and recreation projects were spotlighted, including Etowah River trail expansion eastward, a mini pitch soccer field at Harmon Park, outdoor gym at Heritage Park, and further future trail expansion near the Etowah River, and wifi installation at public parks.
“2020 was anything but normal, but with the support of city staff and the citizens of Canton, together we managed to thrive as we continued our quest to become the coolest small town in America,” Grant said.