The first of Bryan County’s Comprehensive Plan workshops were held this week in Pembroke and Richmond Hill, giving local residents a chance to take part in the planning process for the county’s future.
"Your involvement in this is critical," said Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center Planning Director Tricia Reynolds, who has been working with the county to create the plan.
There were more than 40 residents, including local officials, who attended the workshops to find out more and give their suggestions.
"These documents, as a whole, are your policy guide for future decision making. It has an impact on your future development patterns, your capital improvements, your services, budgets, zoning, ordinances, and more," Reynolds said. "We are helping bring this together as a joint comprehensive plan."
The input from the workshops on Tuesday and Thursday will help finalize the community agenda. The community’s assessment has already been completed, illustrating what’s currently happening in the county.
The agenda requires public participation and is the most important document in the comprehensive plan, Reynolds said.
"The planning process is your opportunity to reflect what your values are; to say what’s important to you and how you want your community to grow; and, most importantly, for elected officials and planning members – because this many people have had the opportunity to be a part of the development – you’re more likely to be involved in the implementation of this plan," she said.Part of the workshop included an interactive session with Jan Coyne and Matt Bishop from the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute, who helped field a polling session and residents interaction about different topics within the plan.
"These polls will give us an idea about the level of importance you view these concepts," Bishop said. "And to all the elected officials here, we want to hear about what you personally believe."
Bishop said the goal of the meeting was to gauge everyone about the importance level of different issues, such as how important it is to create jobs for people who live in Bryan County, for example.
Out of the 34 pollers at Richmond Hill’s workshop, 12 percent said it really wasn’t very important, 33 percent said it was somewhat important, 12 percent said it was important and 42 percent said it was very important.
"These levels are really just a way for us to ‘take your temperature,’ so to speak, on these concepts," Bishop said, welcoming questions and comments during the polling phase. Other questions, such as how important is it to preserve green space or have intergovernmental coordination, ranked high on the participants’ lists of very important concepts.
"The information I’ll get back from the Fanning Institute will quickly show us where the community’s priorities are," Reynolds said. "That’s where we’re going to focus our attention and, while everything will be talked about in the plan, this helps us prioritize."
After the polling, there was a group discussion on more specific topics.
Bishop wanted to know what kinds of jobs and economic development the community would like to see – and there was a range of everything from high-tech positions to a bigger tourism industry, and corporate jobs to a recording studio.
Afterwards, residents were asked to voice opinions on what they think might help recruit job opportunities they would like to see, with responses such as land availability, tax breaks for businesses, comparable pay scales, affordable housing, a better-trained workforce, satellite campus, trade school and national advertising. Residents also said it was important not only for intergovernmental coordination between the cities and county, but also between county and county, county and state, etc.
Reynolds said earlier in the week during the Pembroke workshop, they had a smaller turnout but the participants were "just as impassioned about their community."
"They were very willing to share their ideas and we didn’t see a lot of different suggestions, but schools were brought up much quicker – they emphasized the importance of a quality school system – and not only stimulating economic development, but also sustaining quality of life. We heard a lot more from them about downtown and losing the community character."
Reynolds said the CGRDC will work on the draft in a way that brings together the community’s feelings about the most important topics. Ultimately, she said their goal is to have the plan be adoptable for the elected officials.
For more information, visit www.coastalgeorgiardc.org and click on ‘planning services’ and select ‘local plan review’ from the menu.
There will be additional workshops in March and April and the estimated deadline for the completed comprehensive plan is Oct. 31, 2008.
"A hundred years after we are gone and forgotten, those who never heard of us will be living with the results of our actions." –from Oliver Wendell Holmes, included in the RDC presentation