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County stands ready for growth

Decatur County stands ready to continue its growth once the slumping house market and recessed economy rebound, if local development is any indication.

At its Tuesday morning meeting, Decatur County commissioners unanimously voted to approve a final plat map request from Wheat and Company for Blue Springs Subdivision, located south of the existing River Chase subdivision between the Flint River and Georgia 97 South.

The subdivision will be served by Bainbridge utilities and a dedicated lift station. It’s been a “tortuous” process moving the Blue Spring plans forward, according to a memo by Wheat and Company agent Joe Livingston, but four years after a road was built to serve the subdivision, things appear to be falling into place.

Blue Springs will feature lot sizes of about 1-1/2 to 2 acres, will be approximately the same size as River Chase and will also feature some riverfront lots, according to city and county zoning officials.

Commissioners also approved, by unanimous vote, the subdivision of two parcel lots owned by Federated Properties of Panama City, Fla., into three commercial lots. The properties are located off U.S. 84 East near the site of the new Bainbridge High School.

Daniel Barnard Jr. has proposed developing one of the newly subdivided lots, 2.3 acres in size, for a new gas station/convenience store and restaurant.

The Bainbridge City Council has agreed to extend city utilities to the site and tentatively annexed Barnard’s lot into city limits; however, there is still some work to be done before the gas station could open, City Planner Dustin Dowdy said Friday.

The biggest issue is extending city utilities from their current terminus at the new Bainbridge High School underneath U.S. 84 East to Barnard’s development. There’s also 25 acres of commercial land owned by the estate of the late Arminda Hunt that are within city limits and could receive access to city utilities, Dowdy said. Other steps Barnard will have to undertake include getting the Georgia Department of Transportation to approve an entry/exit point for the gas station and getting site plans and other permits approved by the city.

Other active developments within Bainbridge include the second phase of Country Club Estates, which has city utilities and other infrastructure in place but no homes yet, and Southgate subdivision off U.S. 27 South, where sidewalks and utilities are in place.

Developer Mike Conder said Friday that construction of the first phase’s cottage-style homes could begin in August and be ready for move-in by the start of 2010.

County commissioners also approved, by unanimous vote, the subdivision of 102.1 acres owned by the estate of Bertha Mae Cooper into 13 residential lots located off Cooper Road in the northeast portion of the county.

Other business

In other business, county commissioners:

 Agreed, by unanimous vote, a policy change to allow County Planner Paul Soudi to review, approve or deny some variance requests after confirmation that the variance would not adversely impact surrounding property owners and would not impact Decatur County. County Attorney Brown Moseley advocated the change, saying it would improve customer service in certain specific cases.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, an ordinance authorizing issuance of free temporary permits for nonprofit food sales and food services at events sponsored by a county, municipality or organization. County Administrator Tom Patton said the ordinance enables the County Health Department to enforce state laws concerning food safety in those situations.

 Approved, by unanimous vote, to direct Patton to look into the possibility of enabling the application for permits from the county’s Planning Department between the hours of noon and 1 p.m. on weekdays. Commissioner Russell Smith suggested the change based on citizens’ requests and his own research into other counties’ customer service practices. Patton said it is possible to apply for permits online and pay any associated fees by mailing a check. The county’s Web site is www.decaturcountyga.org

 Agreed to hold a work session on preparation of the county’s 2009-2010 fiscal year budget on Thursday, June 18, at 1 p.m. at the County Administration Building. Commissioners also discussed the possibility of holding a work session to discuss dirt road maintenance and other issues in the near future.

 Recognized David Jackson, an employee of the County Road Department, for his efforts to provide emergency aid to a City of Bainbridge employee who was injured in a recent machinery accident.