RINCON — The Effingham County Chamber of Commerce believes “smart growth” is a term in need of a clear definition and it has launched an initiative to get one.
“For some, the ideal would be no growth at all ...,” Chamber Chairman Ryan Thompson said during the Eggs & Issues Breakfast at Effingham College & Career Academy on Dec. 8. “I think those of us in here in this room realize that is probably not possible. Our county, because of the wonderful place we are, is going to see growth one way or the other.
“We can either get ahead of it and be smart about it or the other alternative.”
During its Community Leadership Retreat in October, chamber members were asked to list Effingham County’s leading and opportunities and threats.
“From that, we did get a lot of good feedback and I want to make sure we as a chamber do something with (it),” Thompson said. “There is nothing more frustrating, I’m sure, than give your feedback and then a year or two later you don’t feel anything is resulting from that.”
Thompson shared some of findings from the retreat exercise.
“Some of the concerns we heard were traffice growth,” he said. “I’ll be honest. A lot of the things were threats.
“There were opportunities (listed) but there significant threats identified.”
The list also included the following worries:
— rapid population growth
— access to water and sewer
— potential overdevelopment in some areas
— availability of safe and affordable workforce housing.
“The term ‘smart growth’ was written down multiple times,” Thompson said. “... As I was leaving, I had several folks come up to me say, ‘I don’t think everyone in this room defines smarth growth the same way.”
The chamber’s initiative was born out of that concern. The goal is to achieve a mix of population and businesses that will not adversely impact the quality of life for Effingham County residents.
“Obviously, there is a balance there,” Thompson said. “We at the chamber really want to be a leader in the community to help us work toward, ‘What is the definition of smarth growth?’
“How will it affect our education system in Effingham? We all recognize just how wonderful our education (system) is and how lucky we are to have that ... We’ve added more people to the population because of our wonderful school officials.
“Our health care system — we are very blessed to have that and how we grow will affect that. And, obviously, how will growth affect the rural character and agriculture character of Effingham?
“We really want to put all those ideas together to develop what we define (as smarth growth).”
Thompson applauded county government officials for revamping its comprehensive plan to manage growth.
“We look forward to being a partner in that,” Thompson said. “We hope this process we are going through as a chamber will help faciliate and provide some additinal ideas to that process that they are going through.”