Fayette County, Georgia
A historical gem with a modern outlook
A county on the verge of further economic expansion, Fayette County can count on deep historical roots to help it grow
Only half an hour out of Atlanta and brimming with natural splendor, Fayette County, Georgia is a great place to drive through and an even better place to call home. Poised for economic expansion, the county never loses sight of its historical roots and local southern charm.
We recently spoke with Anita Godbee, Phil Mallon, and Vanessa Tigert, respectively Fayette County’s directors of parks and recreation, public works, and its water system. They told us more about their beautiful and charming 202-year-old community, home to some 120,000 residents and named for the famed American Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de La Fayette.
Mallon speaks of what drew him to Fayette County.
“I moved here deliberately, after being familiar with the Atlanta region,” he says. “There are a handful of things that brought me here. The safety of Fayette County kind of trumps everything for me, from a family perspective. I wanted an opportunity where we could live, shop and work without any safety concerns for me and my family. We moved here when weI had young kids, so education was equally important.”
Fayette County has one of the top education programs in the state, Mallon adds. He also cites the county’s development and land-use control.
“We joke, in public works, that when you drive into Fayette County from a neighboring county, we want the driver to say, ‘Wow, what’s changed? Why do things suddenly look nicer or feel better, and the pavement is smoother?’” he continues. “We can’t always achieve that, but that’s our goal.”
Godbee cites doings in the Parks and Rec department. She praises the members of the local community for appreciating their parks.
“We do have some older parks,” she says, “but we are constantly upgrading them, maintaining them, and doing what it takes to make sure that they’re attractive for our citizens, as well as anyone who enters our county. The citizens understand the importance of parks and recreation and appreciate the fact that they have nice facilities throughout the county.”
“We hear it all the time from some of the individuals who visit our parks. They say, ‘We feel safe when we come to your parks. That’s the reason why we come here and walk. We exercise, and we participate in your programs,’ and our citizens say the same thing.”
Mallon notes that Fayette County and its biggest community, Peachtree City in particular, are recognized nationally for their system of multi-use trails, more than 100 miles long and popular with walkers, hikers, and bikers.
“It is a true alternative form of transportation that helps get cars off the road,” he informs, “Another benefit is that it allows drivers––whether they’re young people who can’t drive a car yet or, older people who are not comfortable driving anymore––to hop on a golf cart and take this trail and get to where they need to go, whether it’s visiting a grandchild at school, going to a drug store or medical facility, going shopping or visiting a golf course. It makes Peachtree City unique.”
Godbee cites an upcoming multi-use facility in the works, made possible thanks to Fayette County voters, who this year recently passed a SPLOST, or “special purpose local-option sales tax” in the amount of just a penny over the next six years.
Over time, that will amount to quite a tidy packet: $210 million countywide (see https://fayettecountyga.gov/splost-2023/ for a breakdown). A portion of Fayette County’s share will fund the new multi-use facility, which Godbee says will feature meeting rooms for citizens to participate in programs. It will have a community room that may be reserved for local community events and social gatherings. There will also be a two-court system in the facility that will be multi-use.
“You can play basketball, volleyball, and pickleball, which is one of the fastest-growing sports in America,” Godbee reveals. “We can have cultural events inside the gymnasiums. Upstairs there will be a walking trail. With the intense heat we’ve been having here lately, individuals can come inside and still get their walk or run in for the day. We will also have a fitness room for individuals to come in and do some training. Again, it is multi-generational, so whether you’re 105 years old or a small child, you are welcome to come and participate in all activities. It targets all ages.”
A special sense of place
Mallon speaks of promoting a sense of community throughout all of Fayette County, especially for those living in its unincorporated areas.
“I think that if you were to take a survey, they would say consistently that they intentionally moved here because of the unincorporated areas,” he relays. “We are maybe a little different from some of the other Atlanta communities in that we intentionally have very slow growth and control in the unincorporated areas. We have very large lot sizes.”
That minimum lot size is one acre on the northern end of the county. Contrast that with a minimum of five acres at the opposite southern end.
“It’s a lot of almost estate-type settings,” says Mallon. “People feel very passionately about that. They like to maintain that rural character, and it’s one of our design priorities as we are looking at new projects and upgrades to our roads. That’s often hard to do: to expand a road to meet capacity but still try to preserve that rural character. I think it’s very important to the community.”
Tigert cites the reservoir areas that have become such popular attractions in the community.
“One of the great things about Fayette County is our water resources,” she says. “We have several lakes and several small watersheds that have lent themselves to building reservoirs. Today the water system manages four reservoirs. Three are in Peachtree City.”
Another, the largest, Lake Horton, is in an unincorporated part of the county.
“They are enjoyed by everybody,” says Tigert.
“We have walking trails, parks, and children’s parks. They are used regularly. We have all sorts of picnic areas and pavilions, so people can hold their family reunions there. Anita helps us with that. She can attest to how much they are used. Lake Horton has some of the best small-mouthed bass fishing and bream fishing.”
Mallon also discusses the county’s infrastructure, which includes some $45 million in planned upgrades and improvements, also thanks to the SPLOST. Mallon adds this will address needed work on roads and bridges and stormwater improvements.
“We have a lot of neighborhoods that are getting close to 40 years old,” he informs, “and the storm pipe infrastructure is failing, so we, through the SPLOST, established a funding source to replace those pipes as needed.
“Regarding transportation money, we have several goals,” he continues.
“We are putting aside a portion of it to expand the infrastructure we talked about in the unincorporated (portions of the) county, and we have some capacity projects, but the biggest emphasis is safety. We are targeting the intersections and areas of our roads that have the greatest safety concerns.”
“One of the common things we are doing is installing roundabouts, or, where not feasible, traffic signals, at select intersections. We’re also looking at some of our corridors that are quickly changing because of growth in the cities. We are recognizing those roads are going to need substantial upgrades to serve not only the immediate but also the long-term: the next 20 to 30 years of growth. We’re looking at turn lanes, guard rails, and adding capacity where needed,” he adds.
Mallon says the County wants to make its sidewalks and paths more pedestrian-friendly. He adds that another component of the County’s SPLOST money will go to simply maintaining the status quo. Mallon says that there is an active system of periodically reviewing and ranking Fayette County’s roads and doing the work that’s required.
“To maintain them,” he adds, “at a good to excellent condition is our goal.”
Mallon also points out that ensuring Fayette County continues to protect what it has is of paramount importance as the community marches into the future, especially with the projected 25,000 more new residents within 20 years.
“We don’t have anywhere near the traffic congestion that you see in other areas of Atlanta,” he notes,
“So our challenge is to ensure that we continue to provide our citizens good ways to come into and out of the county and maintain Fayette County as a very good place to live and a good place to work.”
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AT A GLANCE
Fayette County, Georgia
Where: in the heart of the Peach State