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Hiltonia seeks federal dollars for development
The 490 residents of the Town of Hiltonia are coming up with a plan that they hope will help attract some federal dollars to improve housing and stimulate economic development.
The effort is timely, given the availability of federal stimulus dollars under the Obama administration, said Tricia Reynolds, who is helping the town with its plan. Reynolds is director of planning and government services for the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center.
She attended the town council’s meeting Monday night, when the council members agreed to take part in a year-long effort to draft an “urban redevelopment plan.”
Reynolds acknowledged that Hiltonia is not “urban,” but said urban redevelopment plans, as provided for in the Urban Redevelopment Act of 1955, are a good way for towns to identify their strengths, weaknesses and long-term goals in hopes of attracting grants. Neighboring cities, such as the City of Washington, Ga., have used urban redevelopment plans to target areas of blight, crime and poverty.
The Town of Hiltonia, which covers less than one square mile, includes two convenience stores, a liquor store and a number of churches. It also includes some dilapidated housing that town officials would like to see improved.
The mayor of Hiltonia, Gerry Forehand, and his wife June first approached the Coastal Georgia RDC for help in December, Reynolds said, looking for help redeveloping the town.
“We are very excited and look forward to the prospect of working with the citizens of Hiltonia and the Coastal Georgia RDC in bringing about improved living conditions for our town,” Mayor Forehand said.
The town council will appoint an advisory committee that will develop long-term goals, objectives and ways to stabilize and revitalize the town.
“Ideally, we would like to work with a committee of 10 to 15 people who are dedicated to improving Hiltonia,” Reynolds said. “Council members, business owners, large property owners, farmers, ministers, residents – anyone who is invested in this community that is willing to meet to discuss the issues and solutions is a good candidate for the committee.”
The goal is to have members of the advisory committee appointed by May. Coastal Georgia RDC staff will complete a “findings of necessity report” by June, which will look at the town’s housing conditions, poverty levels, commercial and retail profile, vacancy rates, crime statistics and infrastructure capacity.
The planning process will include open house forums, design workshops and public hearings.
For more information about the plan, contact Reynolds at (912) 262-2870.