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Residents leery of growth in rural area

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POSTED: July 28, 2014 12:16 p.m.
Photo by Randy C. Murray/

Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Member Phil Odom, who lives in the McIntosh community, makes a point during Thursday’s meeting.

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An estimated 25 residents of the McIntosh/Holmestown community have told planners they don’t want much development in their area.
And at a community meeting at the Dorchester Academy auditorium Thursday, the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission planners told the residents that is probably what will happen.
LCPC Director Jeff Ricketson, planner Melissa Jones and zoning administrator Gabriele Hartage spoke with residents about the 2040 Liberty County Comprehensive Plan for land use, asking for their opinions about development in their community.
Jones explained how the plan is a guide for development and that changes they make to their community’s land-use map are not zoning changes. For an actual zoning change in their unincorporated community, Hartage said a property owner would have to request it and that request would have to be approved by the county commission.
“We did a comprehensive plan back in 2008,” Jones said, pointing to the current land-use map. “We basically had this community broken down into developed and undeveloped areas. You have a little over 29,000 acres, most of which is zoned agricultural/forestry... We want to make sure what we have on this map is what you want.”
She pointed to another map that showed most of the McIntosh/Holmestown community designated as wetlands, which limits large-scale development and some residential development.
A resident, who didn’t identify herself, complained that corporations often get around wetland laws. Planning Commissioner Phil Odom, who lives in the McIntosh community, said that’s not always true. He noted an area near the intersection of Highways 196 and 84 that’s in a flood zone. He said the Army Corps of Engineers will never approve commercial zoning in that area. The same resident then asked about new roads in the community.
“The only new roads would be those associated with a new subdivision, and these would be built by the developer,” Ricketson said. “When that new rural water system is complete, there’s likely to be more residential development along U.S. 84.”
Odom and county Commissioner Marion Stevens told Ricketson they believed the lady was talking about the proposed Hinesville by-pass. She agreed. Ricketson told her that proposal is “no longer on the table.”
“In 2008, we said we wanted to remain a rural, low-density residential area,” Odom said. “Is there anything we can do to remain low density?”
Ricketson said due to the amount of wetlands in the community, even the new water line will limit development to small residential and commercial development.
With all concerns addressed, Ricketson and Jones were able to get a consensus to make some changes to the current land use map. All of 84 and part of Highway 196 that falls in their community would be re-designated as mixed use, which would facilitate future rezoning to residential or commercial.
Jones said the LCPC will meet with McIntosh/Holmestown residents again on Aug. 28. They’ll present a revised land use map and allow residents one more opportunity to voice concerns or make changes.

 

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