The county’s new administrative complex might be green.
Not in color, but in the environmentally friendly version of building through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for New Construction.
That was one of the issues raised with the complex during the commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Another issue came from local resident Sheila Galbreath, who had concerns about the complex’s proposed location down Spur 144.
"I went before the commission to ask them to have public hearings on the proposed county administrative complex and its location," Galbreath said. "Mr. Burnsed felt that wasn’t necessary."
Galbreath said until the four-laning of Hwy. 144 is done, the location of the new complex will put an unnecessary burden on the community. She said the proposed site could make the offices located within the complex less accessible to the community.
The building will house the commissioners’ meeting room, the tax assessor and tax commissioner, planning and zoning, probate and magistrate court, and the county’s Public Health, Environmental Health, Animal Control and Family and Child Services departments.
County Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed said the county chose the proposed location for two main reasons.
"One is that it really is in the center of the population – and particularly the future growth of the population – this building is a long term investment," Burnsed said. "The other was price of land in the Richmond Hill area. If you go to the major commercial areas, land is selling for $175,000-250,000 an acre. The location we have chosen, the land cost us around $17,000 an acre. We do feel that we have to be prudent in the spending of taxpayers’ money."
Burnsed said they looked into land near the new Sheriff’s Complex, but said there would be an enormous traffic challenge on Hwy. 17, more so than on Hwy. 144.
Mayor Richard Davis said the city offered the county land several years ago, which included nine acres of commercial property that borders Hwy. 17 in the Mulberry subdivision, but the county didn’t responded to their offer.
"That piece of property is in a fairly difficult location. The city’s been trying to find a way to utilize it but it doesn’t have easy access," Burnsed said, noting that it’s not unusual for the county to create a building without community input. "We build facilities all the time without public input."
But Galbreath said Bryan County residents should have a say.
"It seems to be that the county feels they know best, but they’re not even willing to give the citizens a voice in the matter," Galbreath said. "Just because they have the drawings doesn’t mean that building can’t be put somewhere else."
The new commissioners meeting room will be approximately 3,000 square feet with seating room for 200 people. The concept was to create a meeting space that would serve as a multifunctional room for both the county and the community.
As far as the decision to make the complex LEED certified, Interior Designer Carrie Brookshire of Hussey, Gay, Bell & DeYoung presented information about building green, pointing out they created a conceptual rendering of the building in Ford era style.
The commissioners all seemed to agree the design was ‘Bryan County.’
"It looks like Richmond Hill – the Ford Plantation – it’s our look," Glen Willard said.
But not all were sure about the idea of LEED for new construction.
"I need to be sold on this," Ed Bacon said.
Brookshire said green building has environmental, economic, health and community benefits, including an eight to nine percent decrease in operating costs – meaning less tax dollars being spent to maintain and operate the building – and an almost eight percent increase in a green building’s value, among several other examples. Negatives could be a possibly smaller pool of bidders familiar with LEED and approximately eight percent more in upfront construction costs.
"This is a meeting place and also a source of pride for the community," Brookshire said. "But LEED needs to be a commitment. It’s not set up for praise and media attention; it is set up for helping the environment and the building’s users. So you have to commit, not just decide you want to do this."
Project Director Robert Armstrong said the long term lifetime operating costs are much lower because the energy code requirements are considerably higher than regular construction standards. He also recommended that if the commission decided to go green, they pre-qualify contractors in order to get bids from companies that are already familiar with LEED construction.
"It seems this will one day become a requirement for all construction," Burnsed said.
The commissioners said they would make a decision soon about whether or not to go forward with green construction.
In planning and zoning issues:
- James Hennessee, who had been before the board before, came back with a request to rezone his 6.6 acres off Harris Trail Road from A-5 to B-2, for general commercial property to store trucks and trailers only. After debate, Glen Williard made the motion to approve the request, with the condition of a buffer around the property and Toby Roberts seconded. Gardner was the only to oppose the motion.
- Roger Patel of P&R Trading requested his 1.58 acres be rezoned from B-1 CD, which is a zoning for taxidermy, to B-2 for general commercial purposes. His plan for the parcel, located near the Hope Creek subdivision, is for a convenience store, gap pumps and two mixed retail stores.
Planning and zoning had concerns about traffic and the underground fuel storage being in close proximity to a housing development that utilizes well water.
The developer said the rezoning will allow the property to be utilized in a way that will help the tax base and profit the whole community. Willard approved and Ed Bacon seconded. Gardner and Roberts voted against it and Burnsed broke the tie, voting in favor of the rezoning.
- Ordinance revisions for the county were approved in the first reading. The biggest change was for development inspection. The revision says that after three years, instead of one, the developer or surety will have a property inspection by the county engineer for roads and the storm water system. If everything is in order, the developer or surety is no longer responsible and the county would then take over. "You asked us to take a look at changing that and increasing that amount of time," Jones said. "If you approve this, a road would not become a county road until inspected at the third year point. And they would have to have a bond or letter of credit in place to cover any repairs to that road during that time."