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County begins planning update

Growth forum still on tap for Aug. 14

POSTED: August 2, 2017 7:52 a.m.

The Bryan County Planning and Zoning Commission will spend the next several months reshaping the county’s comprehensive land use plan that is supposed to shape how the county grows for decades to come.

The commission held a kick-off meeting Monday night with an Atlanta-based consultant who will help guide the county through the process.

“The goal is to create a place where people want to come that enhances the community,” Jon Davis told the commission. “Growth can enhance the community so that you respect the land and make it sustainable.”

Davis is affiliated with Governmental Enterprises, a management consulting firm that specializes in municipal issues. Its president, Barry Hall, is a Richmond Hill resident who has been advising Bryan County on how to institute an impact fee for new development.

Eric Greenway, the county’s director of planning and zoning, said the comprehensive plan update is required by state law every 10 years.

“This is going to guide our planning for 20 to 25 years, so it’s important we get it right,” he said. “We know what’s coming in terms of economic development and population growth, so we have to pay attention to things like infrastructure, sewer and water, roads and land use.”

Davis said public involvement is important to the process, and his team will help facilitate community meetings to gather input as the plan is drafted.

“The community is scared to death of what might happen,” he said. “Involving them in the process can help alleviate that.”

On a related note, the county will hold a forum at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 at the administration building in South Bryan County to hear from residents about growth and traffic issues. This will be similar to the town hall the city of Richmond Hill hosted on the same matter last month. You can read more at http://www.bryancountynews.com/section/101/article/49804/.

Davis told the commission that several creative planning ideas in use around the country could be put to use as Bryan County grows, including subdivisions that include more green space and are more effective at dealing with storm water.

Mixed land use that encompasses living, working and playing in the same neighborhood are also popular, as well as communities that offer a life cycle.

“You can create a community where people move to when they’re young and continue to live there when they are older,” he said.

The updated land use policies will help the county with impending growth that includes subdivisions already approved along Belfast River and Belfast Keller roads and Oak Level road that number in the thousands of homes.

County Administrator Ben Taylor said the county knows more growth is coming and has been planning for it. He noted that the county population is roughly 40,000 currently and expected to reach 60,000 by 2030.

Taylor noted the county has been directing more SPLOST dollars toward road improvements, public safety and recreation, and will continue to do so in the upcoming budget cycle.

“The comprehensive plan is something we have to do by state law, and a lot of counties just look at it like another box to check,” he said. “We are taking it very seriously.”

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