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Guest column: County always eyeing the future
Carter Infinger
Carter Infinger is chairman of the Bryan County Commission. - photo by File photo

In Bryan County, we have many fine departments who are well-known for all the great things they do. Our EMS teams and Sheriff’s Office react rapidly to keep residents safe and healthy. Our public works crews keep community areas attractive and take care of any potential hazards in parks, roads and other public spaces. Our recreation department is second to none, always keeping our children busy and engaged in beneficial athletic activities.

I could go on, but what I’d like to focus on is actually all the little-known things that Bryan County does or has in place “behind the scenes” – things that often go completely unnoticed by the public, even though they make a huge difference in our communities and our quality of life. Examples include the county’s solid Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Capital Improvement Plan, both of which are in place to ensure growth is controlled. Before developing and implementing these plans, the county accepted community input in an effort to be sure we’re headed in a direction that our residents agree with and support.

A common complaint we hear is that too many housing developments and unchecked sprawl are being allowed. Because of Bryan County’s rapid growth, we could see how that would be a perception. However, thanks to excellent planning, anticipation and foresight, our county’s growth is actually very organized and methodical, designed to ensure residents continue to enjoy easy access to all destinations within our boundaries.

See, the county has Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Capital Improvement Plan help to identify which areas can handle certain types of developments. Rules dictate that people who want to build have to go through a specific process to avoid having things spring up haphazardly. However, if builders come to the county with a proposal that fits into the plan and they’ve dotted all their I’s and crossed all their T’s, the government cannot just reject that proposal simply because there are already a lot of subdivisions. The plan and procedures must be abided by, which means allowing more houses and developments as long as a developer’s proposal is in line with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and fits with the county’s ordinances and laws. It cannot just be arbitrarily turned down. Otherwise, such cases can end up in court and the county will be forced to allow the developments in question to proceed anyway.

Now, we understand that our residents would like to maintain a certain aesthetic, and that’s understandable for reasons pertaining to property values, safety and plain old pride - we like to live in beautiful places. So, thanks in part to the recent passage of the Interim Development Ordinance, Bryan County has raised the standards on the types of homes being built here and, soon, impact fees will help to alleviate some of the development pains.

In addition to instilling standards, county leaders are taking part in excellent planning techniques to ensure organized and methodical growth. In fact, to attract the kind of managers who are up to this important task, the county has dedicated more of its personnel budget to the planning and zoning department over the past few years. We’re determined to make sure this is handled well.

County leaders also work tirelessly behind the scenes on other projects and initiatives, such as transportation plans. Things like the I-95 Interchange and the 144 widening might seem like blessings from the Georgia Department of Transportation and, while we’re happy to have state support, it’s also important to note that Bryan County plays a huge role in projects of this nature. We contribute substantial funding. Our engineering and planning and zoning departments are involved. We lobby the state lawmakers to help make things happen in Bryan County.

For example, when the long-anticipated and badly needed 144 widening got unexpectedly pushed back to the 2025 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program list, we reacted immediately to move it back to the 2018 STIP list. Bryan County administrators teamed up with officials from the City of Richmond Hill, as well as area legislators, Department of Transportation officials and advocates to emphasize the importance of the project and lobby for its placement on the 2018 list. Our persistence paid off and that project is now under way.

Just because county leaders’ roles in shaping Bryan County’s growth and development aren’t always obvious doesn’t mean we aren’t here. The county commission and our administrative staffers are always eyeing the future with our residents in mind. We want to live and work in a pretty, well-organized, enjoyable community just as much as you do, which is why we’re committed to continuing to meet the high standards Bryan County has always aimed for and exceeded.

Infinger is chairman of the Bryan County Commission.

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