Login Welcome to Don Haddix.com
Thursday, February 22 2018 @ 05:57 AM EST

What is a Regional Commission and the ARC?

Before discussing issues surrounding the Atlanta Regional Commission, what a Regional Commission (RC) is must be defined.


There is a lot of misunderstanding out there and the ARC, while powerful, would have you believe they are far more powerful than they are, in fact.

First a reminder. Cities and Counties have certain powers, authorities and independence that no Regional Commission can override. A point that is at the heart of the issue of Regionalism, which is covered in another article.


So, what is a RC? Here is good overview.


The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) is not a monolithic single function entity. It is actually multiple agencies functioning under one banner. It is our:

  • Metropolitan Area Planning and Development Commission (MAPDC) - In this role it fulfills its State defined and assigned functions for the 10 counties we commonly think of as the ARC. Same as every other Regional Commission fulfills
  • Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) - In this role it fulfills Federal defined and assigned functions for 18 counties. Same as every other MPO fulfills
  • Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (MNGWPC)  - Same as every other Water Planning District fulfills

Here is how the ARC describes its role ad MAPDC:


The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) is the regional planning and intergovernmental coordination agency created by the local governments in the Atlanta region pursuant to legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly. This document primarily addresses ARC responsibilities for comprehensive planning under state law as the designated Metropolitan Area Planning and Development Commission (MAPDC). As an area of greater than 1,000,000 population, ARC has authority under state laws as both a MAPDC and Regional Commission (RC), effective June 2009, as outlined by House Bill 1216 in 2008.


As the MAPDC under state law, ARC engages in a continuous program of research, study, and planning of matters affecting its area. ARC can engage in matters affecting its area including but not limited to:

(1) Land use;

(2) Transportation within the area, including highways, railroads, airports, streets, and mass transit;

(3) The acquisition and financing of facilities for the disposal of solid waste material for the area and the means of financing such facilities;

(4) The acquisition and financing of storm water drainage facilities for the area and the means of financing such facilities;

(5) The acquisition and financing of suitable major parks and open spaces within and adjacent to the area;

(6) The control and prevention of air and water pollution;

(7) Environmental quality;

(8) Law enforcement agencies and increased efficiency of the criminal justice systems in the area;

(9) Planning for the provision of health facilities and services; and

(10) The feasibility of the consolidation of common services of political subdivisions


Point (10) carries additional and significant meaning for the ARC Counties. Those are dealt with in other articles.


The ten MAPCD Counties are Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.


While the ARC is powerful and does have say in a number of areas, it is bound by Federal and State Law, so it is not independent.


Two examples are the Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) and Senior services. Contrary to what many would have you believe, those are not ARC created and funded programs. They are State and/or Federal programs.


So, while cities and counties do have to apply to the ARC for certain, not all, assistance, grants, aid, etc, the ARC cannot set its own arbitrary rules. They must ensure State and Federal requirements are met.


That means in many issues an RC only functions as a program administrator and/or advisor. They do not set the rules, provide the funding or function in any other capacity.


As well, for roads, development, etc they function as advisors and give technical assistance. They do not dictate what and how things will be built in most cases.


It also gets confusing on roads, transit, development, etc on which function the ARC is exercising. Is it Regional, State, Federal or a combination thereof?


The Topic issue of Regionalism is about the MAPDC, not the MPO or MNGWPC, which we cannot change. These other points are included to try to make it clear that not everything is MAPDC. Also, whether in the ARC or Three Rivers, Fayette still is in the MPO and therefore still has full access to things like LCI and other programs.


As visual aids, the following maps show which counties are fall under various agencies and laws, including the Non Attainment area.


The Non Attainment area is under the Georgia Environment Protection Division concerning air quality, not the ARC. It does include all the ARC counties.

Atlanta Non Attainment Area


Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District



Metropolitan Planning Organization

Metropolitan Area Planning and Development Commission

(In Blue)