Bryan County held three public information
sessions Sept. 27 to take feedback from the public on the proposed interim
development ordinance and county officials say over 100 people attended.
Many of those in attendance, according to county planning and zoning director Jeff Adams, were builders and developers, along with local residents.
According to Michael Lauer, a national planner hired by the county to draft the interim, and ultimately the final, development ordinance, the county has received considerable comments about the design portion of the proposed interim ordinance. Some even questioned the appropriateness of putting design standards in a development ordinance.
Lauer told those in attendance that the final ordinance could take as long as two years to draft but he expected the actual time to be considerably less.
The interim development ordinance is designed, Lauer said, to clean up some ambiguities in the existing development ordinance and make it more user friendly. He said the existing ordinance put more decision making on county staff than he had seen in other communities in which he had worked.
One change included in the interim ordinance was giving more decision making to the planning and zoning commission while allowing staff to make minor changes to approved plans.
That move, Lauer said, would benefit all concerned and help clarify the county's development procedures. Lauer also said that many of the procedural changes he's proposed would benefit builders and developers and make the entire process more amenable to them.
Lauer has included standards on new development traffic analyses, something he says is not included in the current ordinance and has led to public concerns. In the proposed interim ordinance, there would be methods for gauging how much traffic would be acceptable in the area and ways for the developer to mitigate traffic concerns to make the proposed development more traffic friendly.
Adams said those administrative changes, for the most part, were acceptable to all who attended the input sessions, although issues like infrastructure bonding, which he said would be extended from one to three years under the proposed development ordinance, and others, had raised some concerns from developers.
"Most of the concerns surrounded the design guidelines in the proposed ordinance," Adams said.
Some in the home building community said the proposed guidelines, specifically not being able to use vinyl siding, and other design changes would force increases in new home prices which could price some buyers out of the Bryan County market and into surrounding counties.
Other proposed guideline changes, in addition to the prohibition of using vinyl siding, include moving garages farther back, limiting the width of the garage openings relative to the width of the house, requiring a certain number of roof pitches and requiring windows on blank walls.
Lauer agreed that some of these suggested design guideline were subjective but they added value to the development and neighborhood.
Other attendee comments included the desire to have the schools more involved in the planning process, trying to address overcrowding, maintaining the value of Bryan County neighborhoods, working closely with Richmond Hill planning officials and finding ways to mitigate traffic increases.
The Bryan County commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed interim ordinance during the commission’s 5:30 p.m. meeting Oct. 9 in Richmond Hill.