Effingham County’s much-debated comprehensive plan could be coming closer to approval.
The county and the three municipalities have been working on new comprehensive plans, with the county working with Lott and Barber architects and the cities collaborating with the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center.
“It is a plan to help the county go where you want it to go for the next 10 years,” interim county zoning administrator George Shaw told county commissioners at a Feb. 5 workshop.
Shaw tried to alleviate some of the fears about the comp plan.
“The comp plan in no way diminishes the zoning power of local governments,” he said. “It is a guide to help you make those decisions.”
One of the issues that has been voiced with the comp plan is a line that calls for larger lot developments in roughly the northern half of the county. The lack of infrastructure — roads, water, sewer, etc. — and no certain date for establishing it is a factor in that suggestion.
“It’s a recommendation that small lot developments would be inappropriate,” Shaw said. “The efficient use of tax dollars is why that line is there.”
Interim county administrator David Crawley said small-lot developments such as those with houses on half-acres would not be necessarily rejected.
“Every zoning case is independent and stands on its own merits,” he said. “This gives us a guide on how to spend the tax money — where do we put in the infrastructure.”
The county’s growth is expected to continue to move northward, Crawley said.
“Everything has been market driven,” he said.
Crawley told commissioners the plan is flexible and can be amended at any time.
“And it should be,” he said. “It needs to be kept current.”
Shaw also said the plan is flexible, “and it should be more so than it has been,” he added.
He also noted that the plan doesn’t call for industrial development to go in a specific area.
“It’s where it’s appropriate,” he said.
Carolyn Collins said she doesn’t object to there being a plan, but she opposed this one because she believes it takes away individual property owner’s rights.
“The main thing I find is a concerted effort by government to control things it shouldn’t control,” she said. “I am against a plan that is targeted against private land for any reason. We don’t need government interference to tell us what we can do.”
Collins also contended that government is increasing in size and control and wondered if the plan would be used only in cases where it’s convenient.
“That’s not the way to do things,” she said.
Shaw countered that the comp plan does not dictate what happens with individual properties.
“The comp plan is not what controls land use,” he said. “It is the zoning process. It makes suggestions for uses.”
Frank Arden backed the plan, calling it more strategic than the county’s current comprehensive plan.
“The last plan did not conceive of the growth we’ve had,” he said. “No plan is perfect. There are many things I don’t like about it. But it has been a community project. It is a good plan. It is not etched in stone.”
Shaw said the county’s plan is ready and awaits the commissioners adopt a resolution to send it forth to the CGRDC.
“The cities have approved the community agenda,” said Rincon city planner Lameisha Hunter. “That’s the meat of the comp plan.”
Once approved by the city councils and county commission, the plans go to the CGRDC for a review of completeness. They are then sent to the state Department of Community Affairs for review. The DCA can make comments and sends them back to the local governments for final approval.
But the hangup over the service delivery area could hold up the comp plan, Hunter said.
“The DCA will not review it unless there is an updated service delivery area plan,” she said.