County considers City-County planning commission

Published 4:15 pm Tuesday, October 8, 2019

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In order to bring the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County closer together in planning and zoning procedures, Bainbridge-Decatur County Planning Coordinator Steve O’Neil proposed an idea to create a joint planning commission Tuesday at the Decatur County Board of Commissioners Meeting.

The proposal from O’Neil is to have a six-member planning commission, comprised of three City of Bainbridge appointed members and three Decatur County appointed members, with a chairman appointed by the commission itself.

“I believe both will benefit,” said O’Neil of Bainbridge and Decatur County working with a unified planning commission. “The city will see what’s going on in the county, and the county will see what’s going on in the city. You’ll receive the minutes, whether it’s city business or county business. You’ll get a copy of the minutes regardless.”

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The current planning commission, comprised of Alan Davis, David Conoly, Kelvin Bouie, James Cooper, Charles Hadsock, Dean Free and Hal Earnest is scheduled to meet on the first Tuesday of every month, but only if an application has been scheduled for review.

O’Neil said the Decatur County Planning Commission has met twice in the past year.

“As it currently stands, not having zoning and not having a lot of subdivision at the moment coming into Decatur County, the Decatur County Planning Commission doesn’t meet very often,” said O’Neil. “Really, the only two meetings I’ve had with them was for the charter school and this last solar panel go-around. In reality, neither of those really needed to be before the planning commission.”

With the spare time, O’Neil’s proposal included meetings that would serve as training sessions, where the planning commission members would learn the differences in the ordinances between the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County.

“Topics, comprehensive planning, zoning, subdivision land development, for both sides, Decatur County and the city,” O’Neil listed. “There are differences in each of them. They are each going to have to have a copy of each other’s ordinances. Through it all, they will have the staff to help them out and ask questions to, but we will require some training.”

Bouie, one of the current members of the Decatur County Planning Commission, opposed the idea, stating there was nothing a joint planning commission could do that the current commission couldn’t.

“If it’s not broken, why mess with it?” said Decatur County Commissioner George Anderson.

Decatur County Commissioners Pete Stephen, Greg Murray and Steve Brock agreed to meet with O’Neil in the coming month to further discuss the potential of a joint planning commission.

The Decatur County Planning Commission is responsible for preparing the County’s Comprehensive Plan, which includes policies and objectives for the growth and development of the community, as well as preparing the necessary County regulations for day to day operation and management of the County. The Planning Commission maintains and updates the Comprehensive Plan, to ensure its consistency with State and Federal laws. The adopted regulations include the Land Development and Construction Regulation Ordinance, Sign Ordinance, and all other applicable County ordinances. The Planning Commission intends to provide information to citizens, residents or members of the business community on interpretation and administration of the regulations adopted by the County.