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Property rights dominate code revision talk
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The Liberty County Board of Commissioners on Thursday revisited code and zoning revisions recommended by the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission with Jeff Ricketson, director of the Fort Stewart Growth Management Partnership.

Commissioners spoke at length about the revision, but their primary concern was a provision that would raise the minimum lot size in A-1 agricultural zones from 1 acre to 5 acres. Existing lots would be grandfathered in, while newly created lots in an approved conservation subdivision still could be as small as 1 acre.

“We can either go back to one, leave it like it is, or do something in the middle,” Ricketson said. The provision aims to encourage development in areas that have the infrastructure to sustain growth and to preserve the areas that do not.

“So you’re trying to control it?” Commissioner Connie Thrift asked.

“Trying to guide development where the plan shows that you wanted it to go to begin with,” Ricketson said. “There’s definitely a balance here between property rights and trying to make this plan happen.”

Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. said he was disappointed with the LCPC for sending such a recommendation.

“I think that’s too much, you know, you’re not giving citizens the freedom to do what they want to with their own property,” Thrift said. “We’re taking so much away from them already, by creating the LCPC.”

“I do want to point out that this is the planning commission, the appointed citizens,” Ricketson said. “We met with them for about a year; this wasn’t something that came up on a whim.”

Commissioner Eddie Walden asked Ricketson why the LCPC would submit plans that have the “Fort Stewart/HAAF Regional Growth Plan” logo on them, and Ricketson explained that he works as an employee of the LCPC, but his job is funded and created through the Department of Defense to help create regional growth plans near military installations.

“You talk about being on a regional growth plan; is this the same thing that they’re doing in Tattnall County, too?” Walden asked.

Ricketson said the plan addresses Tattnall, Bryan, Chatham, Liberty and Long counties.

“And they’ve already adopted it?” Walden said.

“No, they did not,” Ricketson said. He added that the Long County planning commission has approved the same code revisions, but he has not yet presented it to the Long County Board of Commissioners.

“My thought would just be, leave it alone,” Stevens said. Thrift repeated the sentiments, and Chairman John McIver instructed Ricketson to leave the A-1 minimum lot size at 1 acre.

The board also expressed concern about a change to the approval process for new subdivisions that reduces the number of times a potential developer must present their plan before the LCPC and the BoC.

Ricketson said the change would simplify the process and reduce preliminary engineering costs to developers, but the commissioners expressed a desire to see plans in advance to ensure they meet design standards.

“When the finals come to us, we may not be in agreement … ,” McIver said. “The board has seen some of these site plans that come before us that do not fully address all of the details as really should be required.”

They continued the discussion, and then McIver asked the commissioners to let County Administrator Joey Brown know of any other concerns about the revision before the board meets again.

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