Walnut Grove has intended to build a downtown on the Walnut Grove Parkway for about a decade now. That vision is edging closer to fruition with reenergized city leadership.
Mayor Mark Moore told The Tribune last Thursday that the city has recently reconstituted its planning and zoning and downtown development boards.
These groups are working closely with him and the four-member council, Moore said.
“We’re really excited about what’s going to happen,” he said.
The council, along with members on the city’s planning and downtown development boards, will hold a retreat Sept. 10-11. Shane Short, executive director for the Walton County Development Authority, and representatives from the Georgia Municipal Association will help facilitate the retreat, according to Moore.
The mayor added that citizens’ viewpoints on future development are essential and also should be heard. Which is why Walnut Grove formed a community involvement committee, he said.
“We feel that input from the city, our residents and businesses is very important from this point on,” Moore said.
Moore described the city’s vision for a downtown as a “newer, updated” version of Monroe’s downtown, with restaurants, shops and paths for pedestrians and golf carts. Buildings could be two to three stories high, with commercial space on the ground floor and space for offices and residences on the upper floors. The design of the downtown could replicate the style of the 1920s or ’30s, the mayor said.
Moore said developers are “chewing at the bit” to build along Walnut Grove Parkway, but city leaders want to have a solid plan in place first. The mayor said residents want smart growth that reflects their residential community.
The Walnut Grove Library and Church at The Grove, as well as Walnut Grove City Hall, are already fixtures on the parkway.
The city must plan for infrastructure to accommodate the expected commercial growth and to potentially attract a mid-size grocery store to locate in Walnut Grove, Moore said.
Along with establishing a designated downtown corridor and expanding sewer lines, Walnut Grove faces challenges being located at the crossroad of Georgia highways 138 and 81.
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to alleviate daily traffic jams in Walnut Grove by installing a roundabout at the city’s major intersection, according to Moore.
The project isn’t slated to begin until 2024, Moore said. The mayor said the city would work with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office satellite office to provide the WCSO temporary quarters once major roadwork begins.
More families are moving to Walnut Grove, some choosing to buy homes in new, upscale neighborhoods like The Enclave at Dial Farm, the mayor said.
Moore said new and longtime residents have said they appreciate the recent park improvements.
The city has revitalized its park by resurfacing tennis and basketball courts and reopening restroom facilities, he said.
City officials also want businesses to make Walnut Grove their home, Moore said. The mayor said a donut shop will soon open in town, and he touted the longevity of Kelly’s BBQ, which has been in operation for more than 40 years.