The final Coastal Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee meeting took the plan’s draft one step further to its tentative completion on Monday. The plan is slated for implementation later this year, as a guideline for the coastal region and Bryan County.
"This plan matches our philosophy," said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty, opening the meeting. "We believe in bottom up, locally driven solutions. We want to help you be what you want to be."
Adriane Wood, manager of regional programs for the DCA, said the goal of the meeting was to review comments and okay the final draft of the plan.
"This is a draft plan, and as such, will be a dynamic document that will be massaged throughout its life to guide the region through the future," she said.
DCA Consultants Denise Grabowski and Beverly Davis went through more than 50 comments brought up in regard to the plan’s draft. The suggestions and issues were compiled based on comments from local government meetings and public workshops for local residents.
One of the biggest concerns is the plan’s implementation and the funding the coastal counties will have to provide in order to make it happen.
CCPAC member and Bryan County Commissioner Jimmy Burnsed pointed out that there seems to be a mentality on the state level that local governments don’t know how to do their jobs.
"They seem to think we have all the money we need – even more than we need – and that we’re spending it unwisely," he said. "It’s important to change that attitude, because they can’t continue to think they can cut our funding and things will be alright."
There must be a one to one match on dollars for any incentive funding that may be offered by the DCA for plan implementation, is how it is explained on the comment question and answer sheet provided by the DCA.
Former Mayor of Hinesville Tom Ratcliffe and CCPAC member, said today’s coastal Georgia is completely different than it was a few decades ago, and needs to be treated as such.
"The coastal region of 1980 is no longer here," he said. "Local governments will say they cannot afford to implement the plan but the reason we are here is because we can’t afford not to."
Beatty said the DCA’s 2009 budget of $1.5 million will help fund the plan and he estimated a $4.7 million budget increase, to $6.2 million in 2010, to help continue with it.
"We’re up there fighting for this," he said. "This is a battle but I know it’s on the top of the governor’s list and it’s become a priority. This area has a unique opportunity to step up and be a model for the entire state of Georgia."
The idea behind the plan is to "inspire" all those who will influence how Georgia’s coastal region will evolve in the coming years; setting excellent standards for counties to work toward, with incentives and rewards for those standards, according to a comp plan information sheet.
Some other suggestions and concerns discussed during the meeting included the evaluation of local water and sewer plans, how the coastal comp plan will impact home rule, performance and minimum standards, addressing school locations, increased strength of Development of Regional Impact studies and a concern of state agencies not needing to comply with the plan.
The consultants ran through all of the questions and concerns and the committee provided their input. Several changes were made to the draft, taking it one step further to completion.
"This is such a special spot – not just in Georgia, but in the country," Beatty said. "It’s the process that got to get started. We put the money in the budget, and even more for next year. We’re not just a one-shot deal."
See video on the web at www.bryancountynews.net.