There is one line on a map that divided opinions at last week’s meeting on the comprehensive plan.
Effingham County residents differed on whether required lot sizes in the northern half of the county should be vastly different from those in the southern end as the county held another meeting on proposed character area maps. The meeting was part of the process for the comprehensive plan.
The line — which bisects the county a few miles north of a line running through Springfield and Guyton — would call for lot sizes in the northern end to be substantially larger, perhaps as large as five acres.
Real estate developer Murray Marshall said the property values in the northern end would be lower than those in the southern half of the county with the suggested lot sizes.
“Everybody in the south end is going to have to pay the difference,” he said. “The minute the line goes on there, the property value up there goes down. I know taxes. I’ve been doing this for 43 years.”
Marshall said he would like to see the county made one singular unit as a character area.
“I’m not proposing where to put subdivisions,” he said. “I’m just thinking about the tax differential.”
But others wanted to preserve the northern end of the county’s more rural nature, especially given the rampant development that has marked the southern end in the last two decades.
“How does this plan address the taxes of the southern end?” asked Dusty Ziegler.
Richard Lancaster said he would rather see the north end grow slowly and not have sudden, large development take over without having the facilities for the growth.
“They got the cart before the horse in the southern end of the county,” he said. “Now when they go back to build roads it’s going to be more expensive. I don’t want to see them make the same mistake in the northern end. I’m trying to give the county reasons to slow down.”
Lancaster said if the roads aren’t in place to handle the traffic, then the homes shouldn’t be allowed to go in.
“If you start developing the northern end, that’s only going to compound the problem,” he said. “Traffic — that’s the key to it all.”
The character development map also shows where planners believe are the best places for businesses. The map doesn’t specify zoning uses, but it outlines areas where residential and commercial can co-exist and where they should be separated.
“Commercial growth needs a place to go,” Shaw said.
How soon the plan needs to be done was called into question. The comprehensive plan isn’t required to be done until 2012, but county commissioners have been pushing for its completion before another wave of growth encompasses Effingham.
Shaw also said the current comprehensive plan needs to be redone.
“The one we have now is very outdated,” he said. “The one we have allows for very little growth.”
Shaw also said that without a comprehensive plan submitted to the state, the county could lose out on state and federal funding.
Attendees were asked to make notes on the maps for what they would like to see. Suggestions, aside from wiping away the “line of demarcation” between the two halves of the county, included making Old Louisville Road a scenic road, connecting Highway 17 to Highway 80, not widening Old River Road
Shaw is working on schedules for the next round of meetings that will help guide policies in the comp plan and county staff, in conjunction with Lott and Barber, is working on the short term work program.