Growth in Bryan County is in the air, famously being led by the Megasite being built in Ellabell. But growing pains are felt all across the southeast Georgia region, however, with Chatham and Effingham County both offering visions of Bryan’s future. Warehouses are one visible, contentious sign of development that connects Bryan and its neighboring counties to urban sprawl and ballooning industries.
One Hundred Miles, a environmental non-profit operating in southeast Georgia, is one of several organizations that are raising concerns about “haphazard” warehouse development and the rapid industrialization of Georgia’s coast.
One Hundred Miles, with the help of organizations like Savannah Riverkeeper, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, Effingham Georgia Green and Georgia Conservancy, recently developed an open-source app to help local citizens document the number of warehouses across Georgia’s coast. The app is intended to demonstrate how widespread warehouses are becoming and to help visualize the impacts they are having on the region.
Jen Hilburn, the North Coast Advocate with One Hundred Miles, said that she wanted to create this app because she couldn’t find any federal, state, or local agency that was collecting any sort of data on industrial developments or their effects on the region—much less any agency that claimed responsibility for oversight or regulation.
“So the idea behind the app was to see how many [warehouses] we really had because we weren’t able to find that from any agency,” Hilburn said. “We met with the Army Corps and EPD (Effingham Fire Department) and several others to try and understand, asking– “Are you guys tracking the warehouses and the implications?” Are you tracking the amount of wetlands being destroyed?”
“We couldn’t find an agency that was tracking in any real way.”
According to One Hundred Miles, Georgia’s growing port system is fueling the push for private warehouse development. To date, the Georgia Ports Authority’s estimate of need has remained consistent at 135 million square feet of space. The app demonstrates that currently there is already approximately 100 million square feet of existing warehouse space and another 30-50 million square feet are under construction at this time. This data does not account for the millions of square feet of property that are still in the permitting process, or the millions of square feet of potential property being proposed for warehouse development.
Hilburn believes that uncontrolled growth spurred on by warehouses and the subsequent rampant rezoning of land by outside developers can have massive effects on the environment and quality of life.
“Do we have the need? We’re trading our culture and our heritage for concrete. We are ruining our natural resources. We are threatening our drinking water,” Hilburn said. “Why are we still doing this? This is being driven by our development authorities.”
Hilburn, an ornithologist by trade, hopes that the app can help inform residents in Bryan County and elsewhere and empower them to speak to their elected officials about the risks of overdevelopment caused by warehouses.
“The communities are amazing. These people are standing up and they’re learning about rezoning. They’re learning about comprehensive management parents and future land use maps. They’re becoming, you know, informed and articulate and they’re coming together and they’re amazing,” Hilburn said.
“Our communities are just doing amazing work but they’re just not being listened to. So we had to find another angle.”
To learn more about the warehouse explosion and contribute to the open-source app mentioned, visit www.stopthewarehousetakeover. org