Bryan County’s Comprehensive Plan Committee was created to help complete the county’s comprehensive plan. The committee met for the first time Tuesday, Aug. 21.
The committee is responsible for working on the community agenda, which concerns county issues, opportunities and character areas.
"The comprehensive plan is a process that’s helping express the vision of the future for Bryan County," said Trisha Reynolds, planning director of the Regional Development Center, who led the committee meeting. "It’s an assessment of the existing trends and conditions, and the future needs."
"Most importantly, it’s going to be a policy guide for your decision makers – your planning and zoning board and your county commissioners. Any time there’s a development proposal that goes in front of either of those bodies, they should say, ‘is this consistent with our comprehensive plan, is this what we want for this area, is this where we want to invest our money,’" Reynolds explained.
The committee members are engineer Ray Pittman and retiree Luther Bacon of Pembroke, Industrial Authority Chairman Frank DuBose of Black Creek, engineer Ray Carter and Department of Transportation retiree Wilson Exley of Ellabell, Coastal Electric Cooperative representative Mark Bolton of Midway, and railroad engineer retiree Donald Singleton, Colonial Oil representative Susan Mosley, high school teacher retiree Brenda Bush, Richmond Hill Bank President Chris Lovell, and Roofing Professionals, Inc. Manager John Reynolds of Richmond Hill.
The committee’s specific responsibilities include considering the impact of countywide future development, capital improvements, service agreements, code enforcement, and zoning ordinances, among others. The committee will go through the topics, refine the county’s issues and opportunities, come up with strategies to address any problems the committee sees and plan the county’s future development, Reynolds said.
"There’s really not one area of Bryan County that the comprehensive plan is not going to touch," Reynolds said.
Specific assessment topic areas include population, housing trends and conditions, economic development, natural resources, cultural and historical resources, land use, community facilities, transportation, and intergovernmental coordination.
"We know why we’re in Bryan County, we know why we love it, and we want to keep it that way. We have to change the way we’re developing, how we’re using up our resources and how we’re preserving our resources," she said.
The timeline for the committee will be a number of workshops between now and March, and the community agenda will be presented in April. The comprehensive plan needs to be finished by June because there is a mandatory 60-day review, so Reynolds said her goal is to have the committee work completed in April, with the plan ready by May.
"Your sustained involvement is probably my biggest wish – to have somebody who’s seen this process from now to the end will make it all the more worthwhile and valuable," she said.
The committee spent half of their first meeting trying to create a "vision" for Bryan County’s future. They discussed what they feel makes the county unique, and went on to think about what the community’s priorities are.
Members decided things like affordable housing; more recreation and entertainment; traffic, accessibility, and transportation; landfills and recycling; planned school growth; more jobs and in-county employment growth; design guidelines and enforcement; and a master storm water plan were priorities. Community goals included infrastructure planning, inter-jurisdictional cooperation, and maintaining and improving the school system.
The committee’s vision – which is still in the works – needs to become a policy and/or an action statement, Reynolds said. Every issue needs an implementation plan, she said. Once all the issues and opportunities have been addressed, the RDC will "bring in the maps and get out the markers," Reynolds said.
At that time, she said the committee will have to start looking at where they want things like new residential development, neighborhood growth, industry growth, commercial growth, etc., to go in Bryan County.
"It’s your community. And who knows better how to plan for the community, and what’s important to the community than you folks? So I appreciate you being here, we can’t do this piece without public participation," she said.
Bryan County, the City of Pembroke and the City of Richmond Hill are all required by state law to have a comprehensive plan. The policy will encompass future development plans for the next 20 years but has to be updated every two, Reynolds said.
The plan is considered a combined effort; Coastal Georgia RDC is under contract with Pembroke and Richmond Hill to do their community assessments and agendas. While they are technically three separate processes, Bryan County is the common element, which Reynolds says will bring the county’s comprehensive plan together.