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LCPC proposes streamlining zoning and planning code

Public comment period is open through Nov. 15

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POSTED: October 11, 2011 7:00 a.m.

After a yearlong review of land development codes for Hinesville and unincorporated Liberty County, the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission is seeking public comment on proposed revisions before the new codes are presented to the city and county.

The planning commission took cues from the Fort Stewart Joint Land Use Study and Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership when writing the more than 600 pages in revisions, which aim to streamline the development process, according to Growth Management Partnership Director Jeff Ricketson.

The objective of these revisions is to “improve quality of life and make Hinesville a more attractive place for military people to live,” Ricketson said. “Fort Stewart is a big generator of employment, but they only provide 20 percent of the housing on post, so any of the rest of the 80 percent has a choice of where they live — they can live in Hinesville, Liberty County, or they can live in Bryan (County), Glennville, wherever.”

The revisions streamline the developing process, according to LCPC Executive Director Sonny Timmerman.

Now through Nov. 15, the LCPC is seeking feedback from the community on the proposed changes, which affect sign ordinances, subdivision developments and zoning uses. 

“What we’re doing here with subdivisions and planned developments certainly allows developers to move more easily through the regulatory process,” Ricketson said. “It requires them to do less up-front engineering in order to get the planning commission and the government authority the general approval for their plan.”

In turn, developers would spend less money up front on projects that may not be approved — and the hope is that they pass their savings on to consumers, Ricketson said.

“We’re trying to streamline all of those regulatory hoops,” Timmerman said. “Now, that doesn’t change the standards for construction — the quality of construction is the same standards that we’ve always had.”

Currently, to get approval for a subdivision, a developer must present before the planning commission twice and before the governing body twice. The new code would reduce the total number of meetings by one, eliminating the second planning commission presentation.

“That code is really important because it really dictates what our community looks like,” Ricketson said, adding that it provides guidelines for private commercial and residential developers.

Pre-existing developments and signs would be grandfathered in, so there would be no economic setbacks to the areas, they said.

Proposed county changes include:

• Increasing the minimum lot size for A-1 agricultural zones from 1 acre to 5 acres for newly created lots.

• Increasing minimum spacing between billboards on Interstate 95 from 500 feet to 1,000 feet.

• Prohibiting churches and schools from commercially zoned areas.

• Removing ability of neighbor to waive the minimum height-based requirements for telecommunications tower fall-down zones.

Proposed Hinesville changes include:

• Creating a new planned unit development approval process that separates the zoning approval process from the development plan process.

• All new billboards must be monopole structure.

Proposed changes to the city and county include:

• Creating a provision to allow off-premises directional signs in certain zones.

• Providing for assignment of zero assessed value for property legally set aside as open space for purely passive recreational purposes within subdivisions.

Among the proposals are adding provisions for city and county conservation subdivisions, which allow for creation of open space and possible recreation areas, Ricketson said. Open spaces could be used for walking trails, pastures or farms.

In contrast to traditional subdivisions, conservation developments can maintain a more rural presence while cutting infrastructure costs and permanently protecting the open land, he said.

Another revision would require homebuyers within the Fort Stewart/Wright Army Airfield Military Installation Zoning Overlay District to sign disclosure notices that inform them that they may hear noise related to Army operations. This move could let Fort Stewart off the hook from trivial civil suits and complaints, Timmerman said.

After the public comment period, the LCPC will review the comments and make adjustments as needed. The LCPC will hold a public hearing and make a final recommendation around December, Ricketson said.

If the process stays on track, the proposed codes with the LCPC recommendation will go before the Hinesville City Council and the Liberty County Board of Commissioners for consideration in January, he said.

To weigh in on the proposals, call Jeff Ricketson at 408-2070 or email jricketson@thelcpc.org.

 

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