Tyrone listens to teens’ ideas of town’s future

When the youth of Tyrone grow up, go to college and start looking for a place to settle, what are the town’s chances of luring them back home to the community?

That question was tackled Thursday morning at Sandy Creek High School as Town of Tyrone officials met face-to-face with upper-grade students to get their feedback.

Mayor Eric Dial, who was accompanied by Town Manager Kyle Hood and Police Chief Brandon Perkins, explained that the town composes a Comprehensive Plan every ten years, and he said this time around he wants to consider ideas to help ensure Tyrone isn’t just a retirement community in the decades to come. Fayette County, he said, is the fastest-aging county of the 10 that make up Metropolitan Atlanta and fall under Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) jurisdiction.

“We don’t have the fastest-growing young population,” Dial told the students. “What can we do to attract the young people?”

This feedback session, the first of its kind, was coordinated by ARC Principal Planner Jared Lombard, who provided each student participant with a remote keypad voting device before running them through a series of questions, the results of which were recorded instantly and discussed.

“Where do you think you will live in the next 10 years?” was one of the first questions, to which 52 percent responded that they would want to live in a regional city such as Atlanta. Fifteen percent responded that they would prefer living in a suburb such as Tyrone, while an equal amount said they would want to move to a big city like New York. Twenty-three percent said they would probably move to a “quirky city” like Austin, Texas or Portland, Oregon, one young man explaining that the artist communities are more vibrant in such cities, and another 11 percent said they would prefer living in another country. One boy said he wanted to live in rural America to be away from other people as much as possible.

Answering the question “What will make you want to live in Tyrone?”, a solid 60 percent ticked the box for “Not Going to Happen”, while 12 percent each ticked “A job” and “Living close to friends and family”. Fourteen percent said they would return to Tyrone if there was more to do in the area after work, and a lone vote was cast for “The Braves”.

The next question was: “When you think about your ideal first place, what does it look like?” The options were: A) House; B) Loft; C) High-Rise Condo; D) A ranch; E) Townhouse; F) Apartment; and G) My parents’ basement. Mayor Dial groaned when the results flashed up on the big screen, because 29 percent responded “Loft”, and 25 percent responded “Apartment”. However, Dial followed up with a question to determine if the students were literally thinking about the very next place they would live when leaving their current home, or if they were thinking of their own home as a grown-up after college. The answers to Dial’s follow-up question were not so shocking, and he seemed to be glad to know Tyrone wouldn’t have to become completely urban in order to attract these young people back home some day.

The final question was: “What is a key think in a successful city?” A convincing 55 percent chose “Lots of jobs and places to live”, 20 percent said “People who are proud to call it home”, 15 percent agreed with “Things to do after work”, and 11 percent said “The ability to get around without a car”.

Hood, Dial and Lombard told students at the conclusion of the event that this is only the beginning of Tyrone’s efforts to hear from young people what the town might do to earn a chance at wooing them back, and they were invited to go online and complete a more thorough survey.

Twelfth-graders Ciera Houston and Zantryna Brannon both said they entered Thursday’s survey session thinking they would probably not return to the Tyrone area when they finish college and look to settle down, but both also said they changed their minds midway through the session.

Houston said she appreciated that city leaders took time to meet her and her fellow students face to face and seek their input. She said the thought of having that kind of relationship with community leaders makes coming back seem more attractive after all.

“It lets me know that they care,” Houston said.

“I wouldn’t want to come back to Tyrone as it is,” Brannon said. “But this gives me hope that things can change, and then maybe I would want to come back.”

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