Liberty County commissioners voted to approve changes to the comprehensive plan specific to the east end of the county – changes which have met with ire from east end residents.
Tuesday night’s vote brought to a close an intensive, six-month process, said Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission executive director Jeff Ricketson.
“I am pleased and I look forward to the future,” commission Chairman Donald Lovette said.
According to the county, the new area will provide a buffer between a large-scale industrial and employment center and surrounding areas. Under the amendment, a section between Islands Highway and the western end of Dorchester Village Road, much of which was once the heart of a proposed and since abandoned casino development, will be reclassified as a regional employment center.
All the area from just past two and a half miles east of the I-95 interchange at Highway 84 to the water’s edge will remain unchanged from the current comp plan.
Widening of Islands Highway to just past Brigdon Road, a distance of a of a little more than two and a half miles, is expected to take place.
LCPC staff held two town hall meetings on the east end about the comp plan changes. The LCPC held a public hearing and the commissioners also held a public hearing on the issue.
But many residents of the east end have been vocal in their opposition to the comprehensive plan changes, fearful of additional industrial rezonings.
Of the 56 comments the Coastal Regional Commission received during its 40-day review of the changes, nearly all were against its passage.
Many of the submissions touched on potential damage to the environment.
“I am diametrically opposed to the incessant attempts at the commercial development, synonymous with destruction, of East Liberty County,” Levi Moore wrote in an email to the CRC. “The notion of paving under one of the last refuges of Coastal Georgia’s peace and natural tranquility to make way for soulless warehouses and distribution centers is not only absurd, but it is an abomination.
“To move ahead with such an abhorrent proposition is a shameless display of callous disregard for the wishes of the residents of East Liberty County who have been asked and have, in turn, taken pride in being the stewards of the peaceful area in which we live.”
“Please stop expanding east of 95,” wrote William Lyle. “The ecosystem is very fragile and the air quality will only get worse. We have to do our part to protect this unique and precious landscape.”
Added Celia Bazemore, “I feel this expansion will harm our coast and cause unnecessary noise and traffic for residents.”
The potential for increased traffic on Islands Highway also was widespread in the comments.
“The traffic alone is already horrible and you want to add more to it without the infrastructure to handle all of it,” wrote Laura Towson.
“I am against adding warehouses as it is,” Jonathan Fox wrote to the CRC. “If they are going to increase traffic and all the other things they bring, they need to add infrastructure and tax the warehouse/property owners. Instead they give them a break on taxes and raise ours ridiculously high every year. We get nothing for those rate increases, but get jammed up when trying to leave the island.”
“Don’t turn it into another Garden City,” wrote David Hubner.
Roads and traffic also concerned one respondent who was not opposed to the comp plan change but wrote that the roads were “in no way ready to handle” the increase in traffic and that “Islands Highway is past due to be widened and built to handle heavy loads.”
The redefined character areas include an area already within the Tradeport East boundaries and a parcel between Dorchester Village Road and Brigdon Road as industrial. Property north and west of Tradeport East is expected to become a mix of residential and commercial development, which also is reflected in the comp plan amendment.
During a January county commission public hearing, Ricketson pointed out that the comp plan amendments call for ways to preserve the wetlands and marshlands prevalent east of I-95.
There is no further industrial development along Islands Highway, from the easternmost point of Tradeport East, anticipated in the comp plan amendment.
County commissioners passed a resolution last September authorizing the LCPC to begin work on amending the comp plan for the east end. Commissioners also paused all non-single-family building pending completion of the comp plan amendment.
The commissioners sent the comp plan changes to the CRC for its review before adopting it Tuesday night.
Commissioners also said the process and changes to the comp plan they enacted Tuesday night likely will have to be replicated in other areas of the county soon.
“There are other areas where we are going to have to do the same thing,” said Commissioner Eddie Walden. “The groundwork needs to be laid for our other areas. This is not going to be the stopping point.”
The county is due for a full comp plan update in 2026, Ricketson said. The current comp plan was completed in 2026, and comprehensive plans are scheduled for updates every 10 years.
“This is the beginning of a bigger process that we’re starting on,” he said.