Riceboro residents and city officials met with Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission planners Thursday at Riceboro City Hall to discuss and update the community’s land-use map.
The meeting was part of LCPC’s efforts to put together the 2040 Liberty County Comprehensive Plan, a two-year initiative to update future land-use maps for the entire county.
Fewer than 10 Riceboro residents met at city hall with LCPC planners Melissa Jones and Joey Patenaude and LCPC Executive Director Jeff Ricketson.
Meredith Devendorf of Dunham Farms said she’s concerned that future development in Riceboro and other Liberty County communities should carefully balance future development with historical and cultural preservation.
“Have you considered any kind of historical or cultural overlays for areas like Briar Bay?” she asked Jones.
“Yes, we have,” Jones said. “We will actually get to a point where we’re working on character areas. That’s where you’d put all your special areas. We’d also have definitions to go with those areas, and (explain) why you’d want that area identified however you want it to be identified.
“The idea is you’ll already have those areas identified. We’ll have those on another map. This map has to follow (Georgia) Department of Community Affairs’ guidelines … When we get ready to submit the (Liberty County Comprehensive Planning area) map to DCA, we’ll have one map for the whole area.”
She defined character areas as specific geographical areas or districts within a community that fit into the comprehensive plan under community goals. Right now, LCPC is working specifically on what the land is used for, Jones said.
“These areas are considered to be planning sub-areas, and they are unique to our community,” she said. “Someone in Atlanta or the DCA may have never heard of the potential sites as we define them.”
She said possible character areas in the Riceboro community that should be preserved include the downtown historic district and other areas that are part of its cultural heritage. She referenced Riceboro’s 2010 master plan several times and said changes agreed to by residents will try to incorporate that plan’s goals. Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin often referred to the master plan, sometimes leaving his seat to point out on the land-use map areas that he called service-delivery areas or an area north of town that he said was designated as workforce housing.
“I think if we identify (Highway) 17 as a central business, mixed-use (urban) corridor, then hopefully we can look at some incentives for future development,” Hinesville Assistant Manager Ken Howard said.
“We’ve already identified that area (on the master plan) as an enterprise zone,” Austin added. “So, maybe that’s important … The master plan focused first on infrastructure, because, as you know, we have a problem with (having) enough water.”
Jones agreed with both men, saying that the main development in a lot of communities usually occurs along major thoroughfares. She said highways 17 and 119 are the two major roads running through or into Riceboro. She noted that the 2010 master plan included mixed-use development like grocery stores and housing areas.
“What we would do then is have your (urban) mixed-use corridor within your city limits, then outside the city limits would be your rural mixed-use corridor,” she said. “Remember, though, we’re not changing the zoning, even though we’re changing the land-use classification.”
Former Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver asked about possible development in the triangular-shaped area between Highway 17, Barrington Ferry Road and E.B. Cooper Highway. Liberty County Commissioner Marion Stevens told him the county is already developing plans for that area, but did not elaborate.
In addition to designating Highway 17 as a mixed-use corridor, Jones said Riceboro residents and city leaders agreed to make the following changes:
• LeConte Woodmanston Plantation from agriculture/forestry to conservation
• Birdcreek Park area from agriculture/forestry to park/recreation,
• “Baptismal” site from agriculture/forestry to park/recreation,
• triangular parcel on Highway 17 designated as potential workforce housing from agriculture/forestry to low-density residential,
• Riceboro Youth Center from low-density residential to park/recreation,
• boat ramp at Interstate Paper from industrial to park/recreation.
Jones said the follow-up meeting with Riceboro residents will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at city hall.