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Detour: No Suburbs Ahead
In the Capital of Sprawl, one rural enclave still hasn’t been cul-de-sacked. Will a new plan help it remain intact?
By Jonathan Lerner

Metropolitan Atlanta is famous for its booming economy and infamous for its sprawl. So the placid survival of 40,000 virtually undeveloped acres of woods and pastures, rock outcrops, and creeks just 30 miles from downtown seems unbelievable, even to locals. Named for the river that marks its western boundary, the area is called the Chattahoochee Hill Country (CHC).

Image Courtesy Ecos Environmental Design, Inc.

An hour’s drive in almost any other direction from central Atlanta amounts to a dispiriting stop-and-go through a chaos of cul-de-sac subdivisions and clotted arterial roads. But the two-lane roads lacing the CHC, in the southwest corner of Fulton County, are nearly traffic free. Forest stands of mixed pine and hardwood, old farmsteads, and the occasional bereft stone chimney dot the piedmont vistas. Intersections are edged by remnant settlements with names like Cackle Corner and Redwine.

That the CHC endures in a bucolic condition confirms in the inverse the truism that if you build it (infrastructure, that is) they will come. To date, the CHC district, though only 20 minutes’ drive from Hartsfield International, the world’s busiest airport, is penetrated by no major highway and has almost no sewer lines. Thus, it has escaped Atlanta’s relentless suburbanization.

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