The Liberty County Development Authority’s special-projects committee met Wednesday to further discuss budget priorities before the final fiscal-year 2015 budget is adopted Monday.
Daniel Bucey, principal consultant with Resource and Land Consultants, recommended that the LCDA develop a master site plan for both the east and west business centers.
The master site plan, according to Bucey, would conceptually show the entire layout for both parks, including target-size buildings. The master plan then would be sent to the Corps of Engineers for approval and issuance of a permit, which would include all potential environmental impacts and be good for 10 years.
The LCDA currently has a jurisdictional determination (JD) that is good through early 2017. Before a client can begin development on LCDA land, a permit must be acquired — a process that involves determining land and wildlife impact, among other requirements. Obtaining this permit can take up to six to nine months if wetlands are to be impacted, Bucey said.
Once the JD expires, however, clients will be waiting even longer, since the LCDA will have to have the land re-delineated before pursuing a permit — a process that could increase the wait time by up to a year.
Obtaining a master site plan and permit before the JD expires not only would be advantageous to the LCDA and its prospective clients by eliminating the permit waiting time, but also would be more in line with the Corps of Engineers’ desired protocol.
Bucey explained that the Corps prefers having a master site plan and permit in place, as opposed to “piecemealing” — that is, developing the land tract by tract, which requires a permit for each individual development and, after the current JD expires in 2017, land delineation.
Jason Chambless, group leader with Thomas and Hutton Engineering, said that it would be in the LCDA’s best interest to draw up the master plan and pursue the permit now while the current JD is still in place.
Chambless estimated the master site plan development costs to be a few thousand dollars, and Bucey estimated anywhere from $15,000-$25,000 for the permitting.
Previously, the committee decided to leave the nearly $1.5 million in projected improvement costs in the budget reserve, while putting a few projects out for bid in an effort to determine actual costs.
LCDA finance and administration director Carmen Cole said that the $1.5 million will remain in the budget reserve, with enough to cover the master site plan and permitting costs moved to the operating budget.