Bryan County Planning Director Eric Greenway likes looking to the future. In fact, the sky is the limit for future development and growth in the county, he says.
One of the things that attracted him to the county was the challenge it faced in terms of being a fast growing community and being severed in two by a military installation.
"The fact that the county was split in two by a military base, I thought it would provide some unique opportunities with what we could do here," he said. "We had the chance to handle development from an urban environment and also a rural environment. From that standpoint it was very exciting to me come here."
Greenway has been a professional planner for almost 24 years and arrived in Bryan County in February 2016 from Berkeley County near Charleston, S.C., where he served as planning director for seven years. He hails from the mountains of North Carolina and is a graduate of Winthrop University with a master’s in education.
The excitement and challenges of coming to Bryan County has been exactly what he had hoped for when he got here some 13 months ago.
"There’s a lot of opportunities here that folks are learning to deal with in terms of the tremendous growth that the county is experiencing. I’ve been very excited about what I see happening here. The opportunities we have as a fast growing community are endless. I think we are going to be able to accomplish some good things. Things that people will like and enjoy to enhance the quality of life in Bryan County.
"One of those things is the developmental standards we are drafting and putting in place. Those will help the county grow in ways that people will like and appreciate."
The county is growing from a residential and commercial standpoint with no slowdown in sight, the Rock Hill, N.C., native says.
"We’ve permitted 445 lots for development in the last six to eight months. I expect those to be developed over the next couple of years or so and I expect the residential side to continue to grow. And as we get more and more rooftops in the area, you’re going to see continued commercial growth."
Greenway has recently set in motion development standards that will govern commercial development on certain major roads in the county and will guide smart development in commercial parking lots, roadside buffers and commercial signage. All something, he says, to make Bryan County a more attractive place for those who live here and those who also travel through the community.
"We’re going to continue to grow well into the future."
The biggest challenge that Greenway has faced and continues to face as he leads he and his staff of nine planning professionals into the future?
"The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is that I don’t know we have a developed vision of where the county is heading over the next couple of years. That’s a big challenge for me but I think we’re headed there.
"Developing that plan into the future is why we are working on new developmental ordinances to guide us. It will help us achieve the developmental pattern we want.
"I see part of that vision is the opportunity to develop design standards as far as what our residential and commercial pattern is going to be from an architectural standpoint. I’ve never really dealt with that in my professional planning career but I’m excited to see how that develops. It’s exciting that more and more people are getting concerned about how both ends of the county are going to look in the future.
"I find all this a challenge, but very exciting."
The city of Richmond Hill recently recognized the importance of developing architectural standards and recently appointed an architectural review board to look at the appearance of signage and building appearance, to name a few.
Greenway says he doesn’t know exactly when or if a county architectural review board will be formed but he does says preliminary conversations between his department, the county commissioners and county administrator have taken place and more are likely to occur.
"I think we will get there. The growth we’re going to experience over the next few years is going to be phenomenal. Both ends of the county have different development viewpoints. Zoning and development belongs to the various communities you work in. Certainly the folks in south Bryan are going to expect a little more involvement from the planning and zoning department involvement that the folks in the north end of the county might. At the same time the value of the quality of life in the north end is amazing, just maybe different from the south end of the county."
Greenway said the biggest challenges facing the county in the coming years are the residential pattern in the county as a whole, the impact of growth on the school system and charting the course for traffic and infrastructure.
"Let’s face it. One of the reasons people move to the county is because of the schools. We want to work to keep the quality of the school system during this time of growth as high as we’ve come to expect. We have to be able to move people on our roads and to get them in and out of the county without sitting on the roads for an extended period of time while the residential and commercial growth patterns continue."
One of the missions of the county planning and zoning department is to find smart ways for that all to take place and some things will be unveiled shortly and more planning is taking place to address some of those issues, Greenway says.
He says he enjoys the "hands on" aspect of his job and getting to meet people in the community.
"Planning professionals should never forget that they are there to serve their communities and the people in those communities. I like talking to people and hearing what’s going in their lives and what the planning department can do to make their lives better. I mean the mission of the planning department is twofold. We have to figure out how to balance growth and the community desired quality life and maintain a high level of quality of service to planning department customers. One of the things I’m most proud of in my short time here is how the department has significantly improved quality of service to our customers, begun to streamline planning and zoning regulations and permit processing times and become much more responsive to customer’s needs. That’s a real testament to the planning department."
Greenway says as much as his planning calling and commitment to the county mean to him, his family and time away from his day-to-day job are also important.
He has been married to Michele for 24 years and has one daughter, Andrea, 15.
On the odd times Greenway manages to get away from the office, he likes to plant a garden, work outdoors and watching college basketball.
"I really love getting outside and spending time with my family and getting my hands dirty. I read a lot and we home school our daughter. I haven’t planted a vegetable garden yet because of the transition to the county, but I will," he says with a grin.
Greenway enjoys reading all types of books, he says, but he has a really affinity for Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
"Roosevelt is one of my favorite ones. He overcame a lot of odds and was a self-made person. We could learn a lot from him."
In another venue, Greenway could be a gentleman farmer charging up San Juan Hill like his self-professed inspiration. As long as he could manage to practice his love of strategic long term planning, he might have it all.