Flemington city officials and a number of residents expressed how they envision their city will grow over the next 25 years during a community planning meeting Thursday at Flemington City Hall on Old Sunbury Road.
Flemington, which was chartered in 1941, although the community was established in the mid-1800s, was the site for the first of 12 community planning meetings being conducted by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission. The purpose of these meetings is to gather public input to help formulate the 2040 Liberty County Comprehensive Plan, said Jeff Ricketson, LCPC executive director.
The LCPC intends to hold community planning meetings every other month through January or February 2016. The next community planning meeting is scheduled for Fleming in May or June.
The comprehensive plan sets policy on where and how an area should develop, according to Ricketson. It encompasses multiple factors, such as economic development, population projections, housing and infrastructure needs, public services, land use, and cultural and natural resources. The comp plan must be submitted to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for approval by June 30, 2016. It last was updated in 2008.
The comp plan is a guide for public investment and is used daily by the planning commission to make recommendations on approving specific development proposals, according to Ricketson.
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, commissioners Marion Stevens Sr. and Gary Gilliard, and several planning commissioners listened as Flemington Mayor Sandra Martin and her councilmembers pointed out which areas of Flemington they thought would be better suited for either commercial or residential development. Some tracts in Flemington cannot be developed because they are near wetlands or are designated as conservation areas, Flemington officials said. Flemington also butts up against Fort Stewart.
Ricketson said the city serves as Liberty County’s “innkeeper.” Flemington has six hotels inside its city limits, in addition to restaurants, car dealerships, auto body shops, veterinary clinics, a day care, a funeral home, CenturyLink and other businesses.
Group members agreed they would like to develop a distinct historic downtown area, with shops and restaurants, along Old Sunbury Road, where their city hall, old post office and Stacy’s Florist are located. Old Sunbury stretches from Parker’s convenience store past the historic Flemington Presbyterian Church and the entrance to MidCoast Regional Airport and ends at Fort Stewart.
City officials also said they are open to mixed-used development. Flemington Mayor Pro-Tem Paul Hawkins said he’d like to see Flemington develop a downtown similar to Greenville, S.C., which successfully revitalized its downtown starting more than 30 years ago.
Ricketson and LCPC zoning analyst Joey Patenaude presented current land-use and transportation maps, as well as a draft map to begin blocking out areas where Flemington citizens propose their community can continue to grow.
In addition to the area inside city limits, the comp plan will consider the Flemington community to include unincorporated areas of Liberty County extending east of Flemington proper to Peacock Creek and south of the city to the CSX railroad.
Ricketson touched on a Georgia Department of Transportation project to relocate the intersection of Old Sunbury Road into “Flemington curve” along U.S. Highway 84. Construction is set to begin in 2017, Martin said.
Raised medians also are planned to be installed on 84 at some point, and sidewalks are being extended in the area.
“The raised medians on U.S. 84 throughout Liberty County have been in the (Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization) Long Range Transportation Plan since about 2007,” Ricketson explained. “They were recommended in a HAMPO study in 2006 aimed at reducing congestion and increasing safety along U.S. 84. To date, no funding has been secured for construction of the medians, despite the continued increase in the freight and automobile traffic as well as new development along the roadway.”
Meeting attendees were asked to fill out a sub-area meeting-participant survey to determine where residents live within the Flemington community, how long they’ve lived there, other identifying information such as age and gender, and reasons why they chose to live in Flemington. Survey participants also were asked to rate the importance of specific land-use issues, such as integrating commercial and residential development, creating parks, expanding sidewalks and bike paths and maintaining a small-town atmosphere.
Ricketson also handed out a Census data sheet on Flemington. The city grew from 279 residents to 369 in 2000. Flemington’s population then doubled to 743 residents by 2010, he said.
The average age of Flemington residents is 37 and the median household income is $90,871, according to the data. The average value of a home in Flemington is $189,800, according to the recent Census.
Ricketson said he thought the housing price figure was “a little high.” Coldwell Banker, Holtzman Realtors owner George Holtzman, who attended the meeting, agreed.