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Gibson proud of service on planning commission
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Rincon City Council honored William Gibson, who recently stepped down from the city’s planning and appeals commission.

He decided to resign because of other obligations and no longer having the time to devote to the commission. Council honored him with a plaque for his five years of service.

Gibson, 62, is active in his church, Jerusalem Lutheran. He also works full-time as an evidence custodian at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, there’s a pile of home projects on his to-do list and he welcomed a new granddaughter in July. He had been secretary of the commission.

“I certainly hated to see him leave,” said Bruce Savage, the commission’s longest-sitting member.

Bill Ross has been appointed to fill Gibson’s seat.

While he said he enjoyed his time on the commission, it wasn’t all rosy.

“There’s been ups and downs,” he said. “There have been times that I had mixed feelings about things.”

Nonetheless, he leaves behind a grateful commission and strong feelings about planning in Rincon.

When he was appointed to the commission in 2002 by then-Councilman Frank Owens, Gibson said he knew nothing about city planning.

He had stopped by city hall one day to question the employees about why the water bills were mailed out so late. From all his questions and suggestions Gibson gathered that Owens must have concluded that he would be good for the commission.

“Frank pestered me for a few months,” he laughed.

After months of thoughtful consideration, he accepted the position.

He had moved to the city only two years earlier from Atlanta, where he worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He worked nearly 37 years with the agency in a number of administrative positions before retiring in 2000.

When he joined, the commission had just revamped the sign ordinance.

Gibson pointed out that the group had tried to hit a medium. They didn’t want the city to become Las Vegas, but they also didn’t want it to become a Peachtree City or Hilton Head, either.

“We don’t want to be that strict on it,” he said noting that in both cities signs are built low, even on the ground.

You lose your creativity when you are that stringent, in his opinion.

Now, the city must address all the LED signs that are popping up in the city, he noted.

“You can’t be selectively enforced,” Gibson said.

Shortly after he began with the group, they began work on a new tree ordinance, which took about a year to complete. It protects trees from clear-cutting and requires developers to do a tree survey.

In addition, it encourages them to keep the larger trees and add greenspace in their developments.

“It’s just a great guideline to help preserve the vegetation,” Gibson said.

The planning commission worked on overhauling the entire growth management code for about two years to make it better.

In light of the lightning fast growth taking place in Rincon it will be used now perhaps more than ever.
Gibson supports this growth.

“I’m glad to see that Rincon is thriving,” Gibson said. “Growth is not something you want to stop.”

In his opinion, there are three growth phases a city experiences — stagnant, dying and growing. The objective, according to him, is to be in the growing phase.

When you stop growing, you begin to decline, Gibson explained. And besides, little can be done to put a stop to growth.

“I don’t know any legal way you can prevent growth,” he acknowledged.

If a certain business wants to come into a city and similar establishments are already there, city officials have little recourse. If they deny approval they run the risk of a lawsuit.

Gibson approaches this growth with much thought.

His decisions were always guided by two priorities.  First, the plans brought before him must meet the code and other regulations and second, the public’s safety had to be ensured.

“If you’re not looking after their safety, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to, in my opinion,” he said.

In light of safety Gibson is a big proponent of subdivisions and other residential communities having at least two entrances.

“It’s a safety concern,” he said.

Right now, two entrances are encouraged, but he would like to see them be required.

He also favors speed bumps in shopping center parking lots. Most centers, he noted, have them now. He believes that detention ponds should be closed off and maintained.

While he kept the public in mind as he did his job, he stressed that residents are far too apathetic about the commission and the importance of its work.

“Citizens need to take the time to get involved,” he said. “Unless you attend those meetings every now and then, you don’t know what’s going on in the city.”

Waiting until you get a notice in the mail stating that property near you is being rezoned or developed is too late to act, he added. Instead, residents should take note of advertisements in the newspaper alerting them to meetings and public hearings and attend these meetings.

“Citizens don’t pay enough attention to what’s going on,” he said.

As it’s designed, the commission can only make recommendations to the council. Developers present their plans to them first for review and approval. They are then passed on to the council for final approval. In addition, the group proposes ordinances to the council.

Gibson set about his job carefully and thoughtfully.

“I always liked to go out and drive by it,” he said of property the commission would have to vote on. Other members did the same thing.

He established his own system of note taking, which streamlined taking minutes. Perhaps most importantly, he would really think about the plans before deciding whether to approve them. Gibson views this task as particularly important.

He also kept his fellow co-members reminded of upcoming meetings. He took it upon himself to handle social aspects like sending cards when a member was sick or experienced a death in the family.

Savage described him as an asset to the commission and the city.

“He’s a fine Christian gentleman,” Savage said. “We certainly could always depend on him for guidance.”

Planning and appeals chairman James Head described him as being meticulous.

“He was very diligent. I just don’t know anyone else who could have done that job as well as he did,” he said.

The most important traits of a good commission member, in Gibson’s estimation, are being concerned about your fellow residents and the future.

“Someone who has a real desire to work for the betterment of the citizens,” he said.

While Gibson has a full schedule now, he does not rule out returning to the commission one day.

“Time will tell,” he laughed.