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Changes coming to Coastal Georgia RDC
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Coastal Comprehensive Plan meeting
• When: Thursday, 6-8 p.m.
• Where: County administrative complex

The makeup isn’t the only thing that’s changing about the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Commission.

The CGRDC, which encompasses 10 counties, including Effingham, will be changing to a regional commission, CGRDC executive director Allan Burns told county commissioners. Under HB 1216, the CGRDC will become the Coastal Regional Commission on July 1. The counties in the new Coastal Regional Commission are not changing, but instead of 16 RDCs there will be 12 regional commissions.

The reorganization includes changing the way the board of directors is seated. The new body — which will be called a council and not a board of directors — will have 39 members instead of the 40 seats currently on the RDC. Under the legislation, the regional commissions are to have 25 members of the board of directors, but the CGRDC wanted to make that number larger.

“They set specific new membership regulations,” Burns said. “We’ve gone back and forth with the Department of Community Affairs on this.”

The CGRDC wanted a larger governing body for the new regional commission in order to include more private sector members. The federal Economic Development Authority, for instance, requires that one-third of an organization’s officers be non-elected officials in order to receive federal funding, Burns said. The CRC will have 19 members who are not elected officials and 20 who hold elective office.

“Fourteen is as large as the DCA would let us go,” Burns said of the additional council members.

The majority of the new CRC council will be appointed locally. There will be 10 from the counties, 10 from the various municipalities and five appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and the Speaker of the House. The governor will get three selections, with one coming from a local school system.

Each county also will get one non-public sector member on the board. There are four additional seats the soon-to-be defunct CGRDC was able to wrangle out of the DCA. Those four seats will be based on population — Chatham County will get two and Liberty and Glynn counties will get one each.

“We didn’t think it was quite equitable for Chatham to have the same representation as Long County,” Burns said.

The additional four seats and how they are distributed will be revisited after the 2010 Census.

Burns said that in addition to its one county representative, Effingham stands to get a representative from its largest municipality and one from the private sector.

“I don’t necessarily like that arrangement,” Burns said. “But that is the law.”

County commission chairman Dusty Zeigler said the new makeup will reduce Effingham’s contingent on the board by one.

“We’re probably not going to be in a position to get that representative back for quite some time, even after the census,” Zeigler said.

Bulloch’s board delegation is dropping from five to three, Burns said.

Burns also gave the commissioners a little more bad news, telling them their dues were going up. To get matching funds, it’s going from 90 cents per capita to $1 per capita.

Commissioners wondered just what they were getting for their money from the RDC.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Commissioner Verna Phillips said. “But what have you done for us lately? I sometimes wonder if we get lost in the shuffle.”

Burns said the RDC cut its own budget in order to maintain the funding for the aging services program, which the RDC oversees. Also, Chatham County has signed on for the rural regional transit program, which has been delayed.

“We are an effective deliverer of state and federal programs,” Burns said. “We do provide benefit.”

The purpose of the new body will be to promote regional activity and to promote proper planning and economic development throughout the region.

Lott and Barber’s Denise Grabowski will lead a workshop on the coastal comprehensive plan Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the county administrative complex. It is one of four such meetings in the four inland counties. The coastal comprehensive plan is separate from the county’s own comp plan, zoning administrator George Shaw said.

The meetings will be to discuss how these communities are part of a regional plan but emphasizing the desire to maintain local character, according to the CGRDC. The purpose of this first round of meetings will be to discuss how these communities are part of a regional plan, but emphasize the desire to maintain local character.  Participants can offer their opinions about issues and opportunities of concern on regional and local levels.  A community choices survey will be a part of this meeting to help the public in spelling out preferred development patterns.

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The coastal comprehensive plan is part of what’s going on with the reorganization of the RDC, Burns said.

“The coastal comprehensive plan is the blueprint they are going to carry out statewide,” he said.

The coastal comp plan will be finished by the first part of fiscal year 2010, and Burns said Effingham is already in good shape.

“Your comp plan is just being inserted into that,” he said.

About the Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Plan
On Feb. 11, 2005, Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an executive order directing DCA to complete a Coastal Comprehensive Master Development Plan by September 2007. As outlined in the executive order, the plan outlines a vision for Georgia’s coastal area that promotes sustainable future development without compromising the region’s valuable and vulnerable natural environment. This plan currently focuses on the six coastal counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh. The next task is for the inland four counties of Bulloch, Effingham, Long and Screven to participate in the same planning process so that the two agendas can be melded into the Coastal Regional Commission’s Regional Plan.

The Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Plan is scheduled to be complete by this summer. Development of the comprehensive plan is directed by the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center under contract with the state Department of Community Affairs.  Public involvement assistance is provided by Lott and Barber.