The Bryan County Board of Commissioners have a clear message about growth: don’t blame them for things they didn’t vote for.
“It seems like there is a lot of growth that the county gets accused of that we’re not responsible for,” Commissioner Noah Covington said. “I’m not saying that growth is good or bad, I’m just pointing it out.”
The county’s population, which was about 7,000 in 1980, was 40,000 in 2015 and is expected to reach 60,000 by 2030.
“We only approve what happens in the unincorporated area of the county,” Administrator Ben Taylor said during a presentation on planning and zoning.
Taylor said that since 2014, the county has approved roughly 800 single-family dwellings and just eight multi-family dwellings. In that same time period, he said, the city of Richmond Hill has approved 355 single-family dwellings and 401 multi-family dwellings.
“We have to understand though that the decisions of other jurisdictions impact the county as a whole, especially when it comes to traffic,” Taylor added.
He pointed to Belfast Keller Road, Belfast River Road and Harris Trail as being impacted the most.
Ereka Akers, who lives in the Dunham Marsh subdivision, addressed commissioners about her concerns over the growth.
“It seems like more and more growth is illogical and unsafe,” she said. “Belfast River Road is basically a two-lane country road. If you try to leave at the wrong time, there’s just no way to get out of our neighborhood because of the traffic.”
Akers said that while more homes means more tax collection, she is afraid that people will stop moving to the area because of congestion.
“At least give me something I can use,” she said regarding the need for commercial development to go along with more houses. “It would be great not to have to go into the city or even to another county to spend money.”
Taylor also noted that the Georgia Department of Transportation has said it will seek bids in March of 2018 for the widening of Highway 144 and that more movement on a new interchange on I-95 at Belfast Keller Road could come as early as this fall.
“Those projects involve state and federal money, but we are staying on top of them to make sure they aren’t forgotten,” he said.
No one at the meeting spoke on behalf of an online petition started in April that called Bryan County’s growth “irresponsible” and asked for a moratorium on new subdivisions being approved. The petition so far has 662 signatures. You can read more about that at http://www.bryancountynews.com/archives/48797/.
Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger said the county is planning to hold a series of public forums to address growth as officials streamline their long-range planning.
In other business, commissioners approved spending $118,500 to have prison crews continue to do maintenance and lawn work at various locations countywide and another $127,000 on a new dump truck for the county’s Department of Public Works.