Plum Creek is the largest private landowner in the nation, with more than 7 million acres in timber producing regions of the United States. The company produces lumber, plywood and medium density fiberboard. Plum Creek also operates a real estate development business known as Township 110 Land Company.
Rave reviews followed the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission unanimous recommendation to rezone more than 10,000 acres of unincorporated Liberty County for a mixed-use development.
Plum Creek, which is requesting the rezoning, plans to put up 7,800 residential units and an undetermined mix of commercial and industrial units on the property south of Riceboro’s Retreat Road.
The corporate landowner giant has had its sights on doing the planned unit development for almost a year.
“We’re all familiar faces,” said local attorney Tom Ratcliffe, speaking on behalf of Plum Creek at Tuesday evening’s commission meeting before the vote.
After a brief reference to the request being tabled last month, commissioners gave the nod with little discussion.
“This thing has been on our table nine months, 10 months,” chairman Don Hartley said.
“A long time coming,” added Sonny Timmerman, LCPC executive director.
“Well done. Excellent process. Looking forward to working with ya’ll,” Hartley said.
But Plum Creek still has to get the ultimate go-ahead from county commissioners.
LCPC recommendation comes under the condition that Plum Creek will preserve wetlands with 50-foot buffers and study historical and archeological sites.
Rivers and marshes, mostly on the eastern side of the development, make up about half of its 10,000 acres.
“So basically starting from the marsh going toward I-95, the density will increase,” said Gabrielle Hartage, who presented the zoning analysis to the board.
Because of its size, the project will be reviewed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Wildlife Resources Division.
Hartage explained how other surrounding properties are zoned for PUDs, so Plum Creek would not be considered spot zoning.
However, the impact on streets and utilities would have to be studied as development progresses. She said it is possible property values may increase.
Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin also recalled hesitation from residents during a public hearing in Riceboro.
“At that meeting there was some concern that was raised how their development would affect existing development on Hampton Island,” Austin said.
Hampton Island Preserve, a high-end housing development southeast of Riceboro, also neighbors the development.
Hartley said Hampton Island submitted a letter of support to the board.
Austin was also concerned with traffic, but said the city will work with Plum Creek to add roads to lessen the impact.
“What we wanted to do was make sure there was some public access to that community,” Austin said.
Overall, Plum Creek fits into Riceboro’s plans to stimulate growth, the mayor said.
“Part of the development calls for commercial light industrial [to] continue throughout our city,” Austin said. “So we think that will help our local economy and provide employment opportunities for our citizens.”
He said he welcomes the development.
“And we’re totally in support of it,” Austin said. “We think it’s going to benefit our area from a growth standpoint. We’re very happy to have them as neighbors.”
County commission approval or denial could come as earlier as its next meeting June 2.