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Gum Branch seeks to keep its rural feel

Some Gum Branch residents want their city to stay the way it is.
City Council and community members gathered Monday evening at City Hall to discuss the future of the small, rural city just west of Hinesville.
The Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission held its ninth of 12 community-planning meetings in Gum Branch to gather input for the 2040

Liberty County Comprehensive Plan. The plan acts a guide for the development of the county during the next
25 years.

Melissa Jones, LCPC planner II, described some of the city’s characteristics. She said it is approximately 8,976 acres, has significant areas of agriculture and forestry and concentrated areas of single-family homes. The main thoroughfare is Highway 196, and there’s not a lot of development.

Jones said the most likely place for development will be along Highway 196. She proposed to designate the road as a mixed-use urban corridor of Gum Branch and the unincorporated areas as mixed-use rural corridor. Mixed-use urban corridor means that the area is foreseen to be a place of intensive development for commercial, retail, services and offices.

A mixed-use rural corridor designation allows for a smooth transition from residential use to non-residential, such as public and institutional or commercial development.

One resident said he thought it was a great idea to change it to mixed-use urban because he thinks there will be more industry in the area someday.

LCPC Executive Director Jeff Ricketson said it would be easier to designate Highway 196 as a mixed-use rural corridor so that people who have property along the highway can have it rezoned for a business. He mentioned that there was some interest in developing an area between Elam

Road and Rye Patch Road along Highway 196. He also suggested that designation could be left at agriculture/residential.
“Personally, I like it the way it is. My recommendation would be to leave it,” City Councilman Edward Wells said. “Really, the reason it (Gum Branch) was incorporated years ago was to keep it the way it is, to keep Liberty County from coming out here so far and making it commercial.”

Gum Branch sits between two small unincorporated areas. Jones suggested that part of Highway 196 that passes through the unincorporated areas be designated as mixed-use rural corridor and to leave Gum Branch the way it is — agriculture/residential.

Resident Connie Thrift, who also is a Liberty County commissioner, believes that development will eventually come to Gum Branch.
“We all know that growth is going to shift this way,” she said. “There’s no other place to go. I don’t know where or when or how. But if there’s interest already there on that curve, then it’s coming.”

The consensus among the group was that land from the Gum Branch city limits to Hinesville should be be mixed-use rural corridor, and Gum Branch itself will keep its current designation. Group members also agreed to wait five years, until the land-use map is required to be updated again, to see if development comes to Gum Branch, which might necessitate a new designation.

The LCPC also would change the map to reflect several cemeteries that were not identified on the map and designate them as public/institutional.

The next community planning workshop for Gum Branch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at City Hall, 5334 Highway 196, to review the changes to the land-use map.

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