The Bryan County Board of Commissioners approved a new 143-unit subdivision on Belfast River Road near the intersection of Harris Trail Road and Dunham Marsh Trail Tuesday night that once again brought up questions about crowded roads and lagging infrastructure.
The property was rezoned from agricultural to a planned unit development on a 5-0 vote.
“The concern has been raised a lot about how many homes are going to be built before we get our roads fixed,” Commissioner Noah Covington noted. “This isn’t about this subdivision in particular, but about the growth in South Bryan County.”
Planning Director Eric Greenway told commissioners that the 140-acre project is ideal for a cluster development because of environmentally sensitive areas on the land. The average lot size will be 10,000 square feet and homes will be between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. Stipulations mandate that houses be built on raised slabs, cannot have vinyl siding and must be set back 25 feet from the property line. Commissioner Brad Brookshire asked that garages be set back at least four feet from the fronts of the houses to provide some architectural variance.
“As development continues, we have to take a look at how many houses are being built until we have a clearer understanding of where our transportation needs are going,” said Commissioner Rick Gardner. “Belfast River Road is a connector and it won’t always be two lanes.”
Gardner added that “we have to acknowledge that 144 is overburdened” and speculated that “we are more likely to use county dollars to widen the roads than we are to use state dollars.”
Commissioners Chairman Carter Infinger said he recently met with Georgia Department of Transportation officials who told him bids on widening S.R. 144 would likely be sought next March.
A transportation study conducted last year showed that traffic on Highway 144 would jump from a current 26,000 vehicles per day now to 51,000 per day in 2040, and if a proposed interchange on I-95 at Belfast Keller Road gets completed, that road would see an increase from the current 5,000 vehicles per day now to 59,000.
County Administrator Ben Taylor said there were 97 single-family home permits issued for the unincorporated portion of the county through the first quarter of 2017. That is ahead of the pace for 2016 by 100 permits.
Taylor also noted that the county’s population is projected to grow from about 40,000 currently to about 60,000 by 2030.