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Bryan County hosting growth forum Aug. 14

POSTED: July 13, 2017 2:26 p.m.

What is your vision for the future of Bryan County?

County officials will host the first of several public forums on the matter at 6 p.m. Aug. 14 in the South Bryan administration building.

“We want to find out from the residents what they think is going well and what they would like to see improved,” said Planning Director Eric Greenway. “The most effective way to do that is to go to the people and solicit their input.”

The forum was originally scheduled for June, but had to be cancelled due to last minute conflicts for some commissioners.

The Richmond Hill City Council hosted a similar town hall Tuesday night that was attended by about 100 people. The message from residents who attended was clear: people want the city and county to do a better job working together in addressing growth and traffic issues in South Bryan County.

You can read more about that at: http://www.bryancountynews.com/section/101/article/49771/.

Greenway said the county is hoping to have several such forums in the Richmond Hill and Pembroke areas as they begin work on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. That document will guide land use and shape the future of Bryan County for years to come.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Bryan County was the 27th fastest growing county in the nation from 2010 to 2015. The population here in 1980 was 7,000. It is now at about 40,000 and expected to reach 60,000 by 2030.

Greenway said the forum will include a presentation on current trends and what the county is facing, as well as a discussion on appropriate growth strategies and what has worked well in other communities.

“We’ll give people cards so they can write down questions as we’re presenting the information,” he added. “Then we’ll read the questions and provide answers as best we can.”

Because of jurisdictional boundaries, the forum will not address any current or planned developments in the cities of Richmond Hill or Pembroke, as those decisions have been made by the respective city councils.

Traffic is another issue that is not part of the comprehensive plan update. The Georgia Department of Transportation has said it will seek bids on widening Highway 144 in March of 2018, and bids for a new interchange off I-95 at Belfast Keller Road are expected to be let this fall.

“We’re really looking for specific input on things like land use, mix and density,” Greenway said. “There is only so much land available, especially on the south end, and we want to make sure it gets developed properly.”

County commissioners have come under fire in recent months over development. More than 5,000 new homes could be built along the Belfast River Road and Belfast Keller Road corridor due to subdivisions that have been approved in years past. Another roughly 8,000 units have been approved for subdivisions along Oak Level Road.

An online petition started in April calls the county’s growth “irresponsible” and asks commissioners to put a moratorium on new developments until the county’s infrastructure and schools are updated.

Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger, however, said doing that could cause legal problems for the county. He indicated that as long as developers meet the county’s ordinances, commissioners have to approve rezoning requests.

Greenway said the county aims to have its comprehensive plan finished by June of 2018. It was last updated in 2012.

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