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Bryan County Commission passes impact fee ordinance
Controversial Ellabell rezoning also approved
Bryan County seal 2016

Under a new ordinance passed Jan. 8 by the Bryan County Commission, buyers of new homes in unincorporated South Bryan County will pay a one-time impact fee of $3,148 beginning April 1.

New commercial projects in unincorporated South Bryan will also pay impact fees that could top $500,000 under the new ordinance.

Normal construction and permitting fees will remain the same.

The impact fee ordinance is something past county commissions have talked about for years. The version recently passed has been under development for the last two years.

The money raised through the impact fees will be used to fund transportation projects designed to ease traffic concerns.

SPLOST and T-SPLOST funds are also being used for the projects. One project that will benefit from the new impact fees will be the widening of Harris Trail Road at a cost of $40 million.

The ordinance was passed despite concerns from several Savannah attorneys and at least one local builder.

Savannah attorney Bill Glass told the commissioners he didn't understand the methodology used to calculate the fees, said future residents would be unfairly burdened by, in some cases, traffic projects and problems being addressed that existed before the new residents moved into the county.

 He also asked why the meeting that dealt with South Bryan issues was being held in North Bryan County.

County attorney Leamon Holliday reminded the commissioners and Glass that Pembroke was the county seat and it was appropriate for the meeting to be held there.

 Local builder Wilson Pickett was opposed to the impact fee ordinance but asked for some time before implementation so he and other builders could develop a different business plan to incorporate the new fee into the price of new homes or other ways to deal with the increase in home prices the fee will cause.

Commissioner Noah Covington said the cost of the one-time impact fees would be more than offset by the 30 percent homestead exemption all county homeowners receive.

Senior citizens received an even larger homestead exemption. Both exemptions continue for as long as they own their homes. Those exemptions are not found in many other counties and the exemptions were originally passed to benefit all homeowners.

Commissioner Steve Myers told Glass that the new ordinance had an exemption section for some commercial businesses, including new commercial projects costing less than $1 million.

After considerable discussion, Commissioner Brad Brookshire made a motion to adopt the impact fee ordinance and make it effective April 1. The motion passed.

Controversial rezoning in Ellabell approved

A controversial rezoning request was also passed by the county commission. The commissioners agreed to rezone 272 acres at the intersection of Highway 204 and Carlos Cowart Road from A-5 to R-1, making way for an eventual subdivision with 240 homes.

 Developed and built by Beacon Homes, the project will be built over the next few years and it will be at least two years before the first certificate of occupancy is issued, Beacon principal Corde Wilson said.

The rezoning, in some aspects, contradicts the current county comprehensive land use plan in that the plan passed last summer calls for the area to remain agricultural and low density residential. Planning and zoning manager Amanda Clement said plans are already underway to amend the comprehensive land use plan to allow for higher density developments in North Bryan.

The county's planning staff recommended that the rezoning request be tabled until the comprehensive plan was amended but after hearing that the first request by the developer was made in August 2018 and he had been before the planning and zoning commission several times, they decided to move forward with the request.

 Additional actions taken by the commission included:

* Appointing Commissioner Wade Price as the new vice-chairman of the commission.

* Reappointing Leamon Holliday as the county attorney.

* Reappointing Donna Waters as county clerk.

* Designating Freddy Powell as the county safety coordinator,.

* Reappointing First Bank of Coastal Georgia as primary depository for the county and South State and Ameris banks as secondary depositories.

* Accepting a construction bid from and Associates for $2,662,000 projects on Bryan County Emergency Service Stations 1 and 9.

 John and Melissa Adams asked for a conditional use permit to allow them to build a family cemetery off Olive Branch Road. That permit was granted by the commissioners, giving the Adams' permission for 42 family burial site on a piece of their property that measure 48 by 72 feet. The planning staff recommended a condition that the cemetery be properly surveyed and a plat recorded showing its location on the Adams' property. Other conditions included making sure the cemetery was at least 100 feet from the nearest groundwater source and that an access easement be recorded to allow access to the site should ownership change in the future.

 The commissioners also approved some procedural changes to the interim development ordinance despite concerns raised about the validity of the ordinance.

 The planning and zoning manager said the changes were minor and would streamline the approval process and make for better ordinance clarity. Glass took exception with the entire interim development ordinance, saying it contained "exclusionary zoning" and violated the due process and equal rights protection section of the U.S. Constitution.




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