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Officials taking look at bike, pedestrian trail
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The Richmond Hill Holiday Inn played host to Wednesday’s meeting of the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center.

The CGRDC includes a panel of public officials from Bryan and nine other coastal counties and featured Planning Director Tricia Reynolds giving updates on the ongoing construction of the comprehensive plans for Bryan County, the city of Pembroke and the city of Richmond Hill.

Other Bryan County topics included discussion of a Bryan County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan and an ongoing road study at Bryan County Elementary School.

The comp plans are state-mandated for each area, and the governmental heads of each jurisdiction have recently individually contracted for the CGRDC to design their comp plans. Richmond Hill was the latest to jump on board with the group, with members of city council unanimously approving to contract with the group during last Tuesday’s council meeting. Reynolds said all three plans are due in October of 2008, but they are aiming to be done by June.

"Bryan County and Richmond Hill have finished their community assessments. They’re moving into the agenda setting stage. Pembroke is finishing up their assessment right now, but we’re participating that by the end of September.

Reynolds said the assessment "is a snapshot of what’s going on here and now - taking a look at population, economic development, housing, community facilities and services, transportation to get a baseline of what are the existing conditions and what are the trends and future prospects for each of these topics. And it’s different things for the different communities."

The CGRDC consults with advisory committees in each area, appointed by local elected officials, to come up with the assessment.

"The plans as we’re presenting them will be tailored for each community as we recognize the uniqueness of each community," Reynolds said. "We also recognize the inter-connectedness and inter-dependencies between the three entities. By having us as the same consultant for each jurisdiction, we’ll be able to make those connections and ties easier and more apparent. We plan to bring out all the common threads. When completed, the comp plans should increase interjurisdictional and inter-governmental partnerships within Bryan County."

Reynolds said the comp plans will also help give structure to the cities and county with developmental do’s and don’ts as the communities grow.

"First off, it’ll be current because there’s been so much growth in Bryan County," she said. "The potential then becomes how do we maintain our wonderful communities but still embrace the growth that we need and want. We want it to be smart growth – not just growth for growth’s sake. The comp plans will provide the guidelines for this."

In other business:

- Chris Chalmers, the group’s Geographic Information System Manager, reported on the Bryan County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. He said the plan is part of statewide program to create safe bike routes which may entail adjusting sidewalks and creating more bike paths throughout Bryan County.

Chalmers said the plan is being drafted, and the CGRDC has enlisted the help of many Bryan County residents to give their input. This includes the formation of a local committee and conducting public meetings. A draft of the plan is slated to be presented to the Georgia Department of Transportation and then Bryan officials for approval in the coming months.

- Michele Cannon, a planner with the CGRDC, reported on a study the CGRDC is doing in conjunction with the GDOT on the roadways and sidewalks around Bryan County Elementary School. The coastal Georgia group, because of limited DOT funds, had to choose one school in the region to perform the study on, with more regional school studies to follow as funding allows.

Cannon said BCES was chosen because of "how it is situated on Ashbranch and 119. We were looking for a school that has a lot of challenges in getting kids to and from school." She said school superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer was also consulted in the decision process. Cannon said another reason for choosing BCES is the fact that it affordably shares some of the same data as the area’s ongoing bicycle and pedestrian plan.

She said the goal is to increase the number of students who walk to school and make the parking areas and surrounding roadways safer for students.

Thus far, existing conditions have been surveyed. She said enforcement, by crossing guards and the Pembroke Police Department, is in good shape.

"The biggest thing that’s going to come out of it is improvement in some of the sidewalks and infrastructure," said Cannon. "Which is good because DOT will pay for it all up front."

- The group announced they have narrowed down the search for a new CGRDC Executive Director, and the name of the prime candidate will be presented to the board within the next to months for a vote to offer that individual the position. This is in light of the fact that current director Vernon Martin will retire from the position after 39 years of service. Martin first took the job in 1971.

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