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Alison Eltz, a rising sophomore at the Georgia Institute of Technology, currently works as an intern in Cherokee County. Over the summer, Eltz has been working as a Community Development intern and completing projects related to housing, planning, and zoning. Eltz, who studies public policy, has been able to apply classroom concepts and gain new real-world experiences through her work with the county.

Before her current internship, Eltz worked as a marketing intern in Cherokee during the summer of 2020. She designed and launched social media campaigns, wrote press releases, and conducted interviews with county employees. Now, through her work in the Community Development/Planning & Zoning departments, Eltz has been able to explore career interests in public policy and law. As a Cherokee County native, Eltz was drawn to the opportunity to make a difference in her home community through her internship work.

Eltz’s major project this summer is studying accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in Cherokee County. ADUs are small, independent residences located on the same lots as detached single-family homes. By increasing housing stock, diversity, and affordability, ADUs are one tool that may ease affordable and workforce housing stress. Eltz’s work as an intern kicks off Cherokee’s inquiry into ADUs, and her research so far lays the foundation for Cherokee to assess the feasibility of ADUs in the county.

Once her internship began in May, Eltz has been compiling deep research into ADUs. She began by looking into the broad history of ADUs in the United States and reviewed Cherokee's original ADU ordinance. After identifying the limits of the current ordinance and mapping out existing parcels with ADUs, Eltz turned to the work of other counties and cities. She reviewed successful ADU programs from across the country – from Portland, Oregon to back home in Canton – then catered the successes and strategies of others to Cherokee's unique position as a more rural county. Eltz also met with building officials and other subject experts to discuss her work. After compiling the research, Eltz created recommendations for new ADU standards for an updated ordinance. 

"All of the research and ordinance recommendations went into a presentation that Eltz presented to the county planning commission and the board of commissioners. Brantley Day, Eltz's supervisor and the Community Development Agency Director, says the county is "well positioned to have a draft ordinance to adopt by the end of the summer."

Eltz said that her biggest challenge of the internship was navigating the political aspect of housing policy. She was careful to try and get feedback from all commissioners and ensure that officials were informed and comfortable with the subject matter. County staff such as Day and Planning & Zoning Director Margaret Stallings helped Eltz navigate the politics of her work, but Stallings noted that Eltz was otherwise incredibly independent and responsible for her research. Eltz herself said that she considered her biggest success to be the consolidated document with all her research, which includes a checklist that the county can use for the final ordinance proposal.

In the fall, Eltz will return to Atlanta to continue her studies at Georgia Tech. Though she is still undecided in her career plans, she has an interest in studying law. Eltz says the internship with Cherokee has been an effective way to begin exploring subject areas and get comfortable with the work she hopes to do in the future.


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