The Board of Commissioners held a workshop session Tuesday afternoon at the Courthouse Annex in Richmond Hill and the main topic of discussion was water and sewerage.
County Administrator Phil Jones briefed the commissioners on visits he and other county officials had made to counties across the state to review how those counties managed their water and sewerage systems. They visited Lowndes, Beaufort, Jasper, Clayton and Henry counties, all of which have experienced rapid growth similar to that of Bryan County.
The commission expressed concern that they did not want to make the issues political and didn’t want to go into debt, holding the tax payers liable.
"What Beaufort-Jasper County (Water and Sewer Authority) has done is taken politics out of water, and taken the taxpayers out of water and sewer," County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said. "I like that. It is run like a business."
Burnsed said the water and sewer issue and how the county plans to deal with it is far from over.
"The issue will be discussed at length before a decision is made," he said.
Jones also spoke on R-3 zoning, the designation given to milt-family housing and defined as anything more than two homes on one building served by the central water and sewer system.
"We have taken a real hard look at that and I listened very intently to the comments over the past month on this and what I gathered from listening to what the people have to say was they’re not really opposed necessarily to R-3 zoning…but that it should be part of a community or planned unit development," he said. "A solution would be that we could add a section to the R-3 zoning that would state R-3 zoning would only be permitted in conjunction with planned developments."
Commissioner Toby Roberts said he felt the commission needed to take a close look at the zoning issue, saying there could be small tracts of land where R-3 zoning could be built that were not part of a larger planned development.
"I certainly agree with the larger tracts planned development where there is a lot of mix use," he said. "But there probably is somewhere certain locations that might would be a smaller tract of land that possibly would not be in a subdivision" that could be used for R-3.
Roberts said he would like to see the commission look at this issue in depth to ensure the best wording for the zoning purposes.
"I would encourage us moving on to address this and modify this and have as many input and workshops as we need to get this done and keeping in mind there are some isolated cases."
The board of commissioners also heard from County Attorney Charles Brown on the county’s Open Meetings Act.
Brown, who was just named one of Georgia’s "super lawyers," addressed the commission regarding changes to the act. He said in the county ordinance – unlike the state’s – the public is permitted to participate at the end of public meetings.
One proposed change would prohibit those speaking at meetings from making inappropriate comments or commenting on personalities. The revision to the ordinance would require citizens to speak directly to the chair of the meeting and only on specific agenda items.
Brown suggested a revision to the decorum language read that members of the public not make personal comments or remarks about commissioners or county personnel.
Unlike regular meetings by the board of commissioners, no decisions can be made or voted on in workshop sessions. They are held for discussion of issues that will come before the commission at their regular meeting, held the first Tuesday of each month at 1:15 p.m. at the Commissioner’s Boardroom in the courthouse annex in Pembroke.