Development never fails to be a hot topic around Bryan County, so it’s no surprise the County Commission spent most of their last meeting going back and fourth over it.
The board specifically expressed concern over three developments at their Tuesday meeting.
The annexation of 266 acres into Richmond Hill just before Port Royal for DEA Enterprises was raised a year ago, Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said. Then, there were 10 acres in the middle of the tract not under contract. Now, DEA has all the land.
"We will respond (to Richmond Hill) and say the annexation should go forth when those properties are properly closed upon by DEA Enterprises," Burnsed said.
County Administrator Phil Jones said it will include 690 homes, or 2.6 homes per acre.
County Attorney Charles Brown asked if the board wanted to note any objections to the proposed density of the property.
Commissioner Rick Gardner had something to say.
"I think it’s interesting the City of Richmond Hill always tries to profess the ‘hometown’ values and everything, and yet – and we’re certainly not against growth – but it is interesting to see a city that continually wants to have a higher density," Gardner said.
"And in general, those areas, according to police reports, tend to have higher crime rates… It’s a larger issue. It kind of degrades the hometown value of the area every time you pack ‘em and sack ‘em. So I really wish the city council would look hard at the higher density issues that they continually approve," he said.
Commissioner Ed Bacon said cities will continue to annex land and developers will continue to go to them for density growth.
Jones said while the subdivision is in the Richmond Hill city limits access will come through county road Harris Trail, making the county responsible for things like excel/decel lanes, etc. Gardner said the city needs to know anytime they access something through Harris Trail, they need to get county approval.
Next up, Don Jones of Jonda Investments brought up his Richmond Hill development plans. Jones originally asked for a rezoning of his 42-acre tract down Hwy. 144 in April, but was denied. On Tuesday, Jones said several of the original issues were resolved, including drainage and elevation, but the board wasn’t so sure.He said his goal with the development is to create a "nice, residential neighborhood."
The original proposal had 44 lots, now dropped to 35 lots in the new proposal, each over .52 acres and at least 100 feet wide. Jones said 11 of the lots would be two acres or more; a retention pond would allow flow from homes to the center and there would be a decentralized septic system.
Jones said the development will also have a "swell" of land around the perimeter of the properties so sediment won’t go into the wetlands near the Oxford subdivision.
The swell would catch storm water and drain it back into the retention pond, he said.
Bacon wasn't swayed.
"I can’t think of a worse place to put a subdivision than right there, with that number of homes," he said.
But Jones was persistent, even noting his own home will be built there.
"We’re not asking for any variances on any of the property that’s not acceptable to the rules and regulations that are allowable by you. So even if you allowed the zoning, and if we could not find the area to put the septic tank in, we wouldn’t be able to build it like that," Jones said.
He said he doesn’t want the development to have a negative impact on the environment, but Phil Jones brought up the point that many of the lots include wetlands.
"At some point in time, the county has to decide what they want to do with the wetlands. Do they want to preserve the wetlands and protect them?" he asked. "If that’s your goal and objective, then jamming every house that you can jam around the wetlands is not a good way to preserve or save. It’s a way to upset and destroy."
Don Jones said he knows there are issues he still needs to satisfy, but he’s simply looking for "an opportunity."
Commissioner Glen Willard told Jones to continue working and come back with more information.
The county also addressed the subdivision proposed at Daniel Siding Road. Potential road agreements between developer Lamar Smith and the county were presented to the board, along with recommendations from the county administrator.
Smith’s proposals for the upgrades include: improving Hwy. 17 to the railroad tracks and adding excel/decel lanes, and giving the county approval authority of the plans.
Phil Jones said the improvements on Hwy. 17 don’t include the stretch of road beyond the railroad tracks, to the subdivision’s proposed entrance.
"It won’t take long for that road to go away or deteriorate unless that road is upgraded," he said. "The recommendation is that the improvement would have to take place to a point just past the entrance way to the subdivision."
Jones also said the excel/decel lanes don’t include a cut through Hwy. 17 for Daniel Siding Road, pointing out this would most likely cause traffic to go around the loop road, creating more traffic problems.