In a public hearing held during Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Executive Director Jeff Ricketson recommended a two-year schedule for community-planning meetings. These planning sessions will be held to garner public input so residents have a voice in how they would like to see their communities develop, Ricketson said.
The comprehensive plan sets policy on where and how an area should develop. It encompasses a myriad of factors, such as economic development, population projections, housing and infrastructure needs, public services, land use, and cultural and natural resources. The 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.
District 6 Commissioner Eddie Walden said the new water system being installed in the Holmestown-Screven Fork area should help encourage growth. Ricketson agreed, adding, “Developers are looking at the new water system out there.”
Liberty County began construction on the rural water system last month. The system will serve Holmestown-Screven Fork residents and those who live along Highway 84 from Midway city limits to Highway 196. The well for the new system is at Joseph Miller Park and will draw water from the Miocene Aquifer, according to county officials. The system is being funded by a $500,000 Community Block Development Grant, a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a $1 million low-interest loan, along with $250,000 in SPLOST money.
Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said it would be a good idea to get young residents — such as Savannah Technical College students — involved in the comp-plan process. Terrie Sellers, dean of student affairs at the STC — Liberty campus, attended the hearing and said she could share information with students about upcoming community-planning meetings.
Community-planning meetings will begin in Flemington in March or April, and continue in 11 more communities throughout the county during a two-year period. The final planning meeting is scheduled for east Hinesville in January or February 2016. Communities identified in the schedule also include: Fleming, McIntosh/Holmestown, Riceboro, Midway, Sunbury/Islands, Walthourville, Allenhurst, Gum Branch/Rye Patch and west- and mid-Hinesville.
Ricketson intends to firm up meeting dates with commissioners so they can be present at meetings held in their districts.
In other county business:
• County commissioners approved a request from the LCPC to rezone the properties in Magnolia Place subdivision from mobile-home-park residential (R-4) to single-family, two-family and mobile-home residential (R2-A). The commission had tabled the request at its December meeting to allow District 1 Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr. time to speak to residents and LCPC officials about the proposed rezoning. Joey Patenaude, LCPC zoning analyst, said the request was made to bring the subdivision into conformance with current land use. Rezoning the subdivision also would allow one of the residents to acquire a home-based business license so he can locate an office in his home, as long as he operates his pressure-washing business off-site, Patenaude said.
• Ricketson and county engineer Trent Long, as members of the Liberty County Gateway Beautification Group, told commissioners the group wants to apply for a Georgia GATEway grant, to fund landscaping at the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 196 (Leroy Coffer Highway). Grant money is generated by fees paid to the Georgia Department of Transportation by outdoor-advertising companies, Long and Ricketson explained. GATEway grants pay for landscape plant materials and the installation of roadside enhancements along state routes. Up to $50,000 can be granted to any organization, local government or state agency so they can display right-of-ways in an attractive manner that engenders community pride, according to Ricketson. The grant does not cover hardscapes, maintenance, design or median landscaping, Long said. The group will bring a completed grant application before the commission at its mid-month meeting for approval. The grant application deadline is Feb. 28.
• County commissioners presented Linus Woodard a certificate of appreciation for his 34 years of service. Woodard is retiring from his position as Liberty County Environmental Health Services manager.
• The commission also recognized Savannah Technical College for being named the 2013 Technical College of the Year last December in Atlanta. STC President Dr. Kathy Love; Terrie Sellers, dean of student affairs at the STC — Liberty campus; and Dr. Ken Boyd, vice president of academic affairs at STC, displayed the college’s Perdue Award trophy during the meeting.