Growth and the issues that come with it will continue to be the greatest challenge facing residents in the next 20 years, according to an online survey and pair of open houses conducted as part of Blueprint Bryan 2045, a joint effort between Bryan County, Pembroke and Richmond Hill.
In addition, and not surprisingly to anyone who’s had to drive in fast-growing Bryan County, traffic was the big loser in terms of the scoring it drew from the 881 residents who took part in the survey.
While that’s a small slice of Bryan County’s more than 40,000 residents, more than 91 percent of participants listed traffic congestion as a high priority, more than any other single issue.
Some survey results show residents say they want less dense residential development and fewer warehouses, and a large majority support local efforts to regulate homebuilders.
Protecting what’s here in terms of the environment was also important to residents.
More than 70 percent of residents listed green space and open space management and planning for future development as high priorities.
The survey gave those who took it the option of listing items as “high,” “low,” or “not” priorities.
Less than half those surveyed listed job creation and “variety of housing choices and price points,” as a high priority, with more than 23 percent saying it was not a priority.
The survey, part of the process to update local comprehensive plans every five years, was online from Aug.1 to Sept. 5. It drew most of its respondents from the most densely populated area in Bryan County, with more than 73 percent saying they lived either in South Bryan or Richmond Hill – nearly 40 percent in unincorporated South Bryan while 34.89 percent in Richmond Hill.
Another 18 percent lived in North Bryan, while 4.79 percent lived in Pembroke and about 2 percent didn’t live in the county. More than half those who took part were between the ages of 35-55. Another 26 percent were 55 to 70.
As for why they live or work in Bryan County, the top choice on a scale of 1to 7 was “quality of schools.” Location in coastal Georgia and “small town character” were tied for second, according to a copy of the survey now. Coming in last was “variety of retirement amenities.”
Good job folks
Emergency services and public works departments got good marks from residents, with well over 70 percent of respondents saying they were satisfied with both public safety and the cleanliness of public spaces. Less than half those surveyed were satisfied with sidewalks and trails, stormwater drainage code enforcement and libraries – the library in Richmond Hill has been outgrown, for example, but renovations are currently under way.
Not surprisingly, more than half those surveyed were happy with traffic management.
When it comes to development, nearly 90 percent of those who took part in the survey agreed that there should be regulations requiring green space and design guidelines.
Bryan County in recent years has passed both a Uniform Development Ordinance and impact fee ordinance aimed at regulating builders and assessing a fee on new construction for roads. That led to a 2019 lawsuit from the Savannah Homebuilders Association which is still winding its way through the courts.
Voters in Richmond Hill, meanwhile, in 2018 gave the city the power to establish tax allocation districts to fund infrastructure renewal. Those powers have yet to be used.
Public recreation, environment Survey respondents ranked trails and multi-use paths as the highest priority, with playgrounds coming in at No. 2. Sports fields and gyms were next, followed in last by “water access and boat ramps.”
More than 65 percent said they have to drive to the nearest park, while about 30 percent said they can walk or ride a bike.
Residents also placed a high priority on natural habitat preservation, while water quality and conservation was also thought to be important. More than half those who took the survey gave their lowest priority in terms of importance to sea level rise.
Jobs and businesses
When it comes to attracting industrial and manufacturing jobs, more than 70 percent of those who took the survey gave it a low priority. More than 60 percent want more retail businesses and restaurants, and move than 50 percent want officials to “strive for a diverse mix of industry, office and commercial development.”
As for industrial development, Hyundai in May announced it is investing more than $5.45 billion in a state of the art electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Black Creek which is expected to employ some 8,100 team members at full production. That was followed by a Nov. 23 announcement that Hyundai Mobis will invest $900 million in building a plant at the Belfast Commerce Park to make electric power plants for the cars. It is expected to hire some 1,400 workers.
Hyundai hopes to open its plant in Black Creek in 2025. The Hyundai Mobis plant could begin production in 2024.cus on reducing traffic congestion,” while more than 70 percent agree with incentives to attract locally-owned small businesses and about half think there should be a policy to encourage a variety of housing at The survey included questions aimed at North Bryan and Pembroke residents, and a set for at those from South Bryan and Richmond Hill.
Results in North Bryan and Pembroke showed residents there essentially prefer single-family residential homes and assisted living facilities to mobile homes and apartments.
But “it is significant and important to highlight that the most common response in every category related to housing was ‘No opinion,’” according to the summary of findings. In terms of residential development, Pembroke and North Bryan residents ranked protecting open space and parks, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas,” at No. 1 with 70 percent agreeing. About 43 percent want to encourage development of vacant and underused property, the survey said, and more than 40 percent agreed that “residential growth should be limited.” Nearly half said they disagreed with increasing density of homes permitted in residential areas, and on the commercial development side, more than half want more family entertainment and restaurants in North Bryan and Pembroke, as well as more retail and shopping and grocery stores.” Less than 30 percent in North Bryan want more big box or department stores and hotels. In addition, the survey results noted that “in the optional comments section for this question, there were some trends such as the desire for less warehouses, a desire for more healthcare options and preserving the small town feel in Pembroke.”
A number of warehouses have sprung up in areas around the I-16 and Highway 280 interchange and out toward Bulloch and Effingham counties. In addition, about 60 percent of those who participated in the survey in North Bryan and Pembroke said they weren’t aware of “the existing sidewalk and trail system (there),” the survey results said. Less than 10 percent said they were satisfied with the system.
Richmond Hill and South Bryan
The survey show residents there favor retirement communities and assisted living facilities over mobile homes and apartments.
When asked about future residential development, nearly 90 percent agreed with protecting green and open spaces.
More than 70 percent want future residential growth limited, and half disagree with mixing residential and commercial development along major corridors.
Similarly, 74 percent disagreed with increasing the density of homes permitted in residential areas.
Like their counterparts in Pembroke and North Bryan, residents in South Bryan and Richmond Hill said they want more family entertainment and restaurants, followed by retail and shopping and department and big box scores such as Target, the survey said.
Residents on the south end of the county also wanted fewer hotels.
And, not surprisingly, survey takers wanted a Chic-Fil-A, according to optional comments, the survey said.
There was also a trend toward wanting more family owned restaurants and fewer fast food options – except for Chic-Fil-A – and more activities for teens, including a community pool.
City, county and school officials have been discussing a community pool for years.
At one point in the 2000s under the administration of former Mayor Richard Davis there were plans to put an aquatic center at J.F. Gregory Park.
When it comes to walking trails and sidewalks, about 37 percent of survey takers said it needs to be expanded, while 16 percent said it needs to have better connectivity.
About 28 percent said they were satisfied with the trail and sidewalk system in South Bryan and Richmond Hill. As for how fast Bryan County is growing, the 2020 U.S. Census put it at 48 percent since 2010, with an additional 14,000 residents moving here over that 10 year span.
Most of that growth has been in South Bryan.
Over that span, Richmond Hill High School’s enrollment in the Georgia High School Athletic Association jumped from Class AAAA in 2010 to Class 7A in 2022.
That mirrors the state’s overall growth. There were only five classifications in 2010. There are now seven.
Bryan County Schools is now building a new RHHS for more than $100 million which will hold an enrollment of roughly 3,500, school officials have said.
As recently as the 1990s, RHHS was a AA school.
You can view and download the 23-page PDF document showing results of the survey by clicking the link below.