News from Around the State: District 8

Peanut Harvest in Fitzgerald, GA
photo credit: Explore Georgia

District 8 encompasses two of the state’s 12 regional commission areas, the Southern Georgia Regional Commission and the Heart of Georgia – Altamaha Regional Commission. The 12 regional commissions in Georgia participate in the Georgia Association of Regional Commissions (GARC), which seeks to promote the regional efforts of the commissions. Below is a brief summary of new and continuing initiatives that District 8 communities are currently engaged in.

Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) 

Regional Plan Update

The Southern Georgia Regional Commission (SGRC) is currently in the process of updating the Regional Plan for the 18-county southern Georgia region.  In addition to steering committee meetings, three public open houses have been held in libraries within the following cities: Tifton, Valdosta, and Waycross to encourage public engagement in the planning process. The Regional Plan Update is scheduled to be transmitted to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on April 26, 2023.  

Hahira Traffic Studies

The City of Hahira is partnering with the Valdosta Lowndes MPO (VLMPO), Transport Studio, and Gresham Smith on the Hahira Traffic Studies, a set of traffic analyses for two areas within the City, an elementary school and a park. Two public open houses have been held at the Hahira Depot with the final project report anticipated in April of this year. Transport Studio has created an interactive web tool which includes a map social app for gaining feedback from the local community.  

Transportation Investment Act (TIA)

The Georgia General Assembly created the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) of 2010. This act, also sometimes referred to as the ‘Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax’ (TSPLOST) provides a legal mechanism in which regions throughout Georgia have the ability to impose a 1% sales tax to fund transportation improvements within their region.  

TIA 2010 is a legal mechanism creating 12 Special Tax Districts in Georgia based on Georgia’s 12 Regional Commissions and their respective region boundaries.

Georgia saw its first round of Regional TIA’s in 2012 when voters in three regions – River Valley, Central Savannah River Area and Heart of Georgia Altamaha when voters in these regions approved participation. And in 2018, the Southern Georgia Region joined the group. This first round of participants is referred to as TIA 1. In 2020, Central Savannah River Area approved a second decade of involvement – called TIA 2 – and in 2022, River Valley and Heart of Georgia Altamaha also approved an additional term to join the group. The process begins in a region when a majority (more than 50%) of the counties in that region pass resolutions stating that they wish to start the TIA process. The first action happens with the formation of a Regional Transportation Roundtable (Roundtable). The Roundtable consists of the County Commission Chairman from each of the counties in the region and one mayor from each county. The County Commission Chairmen are automatically members of the Roundtable by law. The one mayor serving on the Roundtable from each county is decided by the municipalities in that county.

In 2017, the Southern Georgia Regional Commission Council directed the Southern Georgia Region’s Transportation Department to carry out the project selection process, in coordination with the Georgia Department of Transportation, for a Regional Transportation Sales Tax Referendum.  As a result of the effort, the voters of the Southern Georgia Region (Region 11) passed a referendum on May 22, 2018 to enact a Regional Transportation Sales Tax, referred to as TIA 1, making the SGRC Region only the fourth region in Georgia, out of a total of 12 regions, to participate.

Since the beginning of the 2018 TIA in the Southern Georgia Region 11, the collection amount of the tax has been higher than originally projected by the Georgia State Fiscal Economist and therefore it is estimated that the projects in the Region will be fully funded before the end of the initial 10-year TIA 1 term established in October of 2018. The estimate places the sales tax ending approximately 24 months (two years) early indicating that the tax will end approximately in March of 2026. In light of this finding, the Southern Georgia Regional Commission Council is interested in pursuing the process for another ten-year period beginning earlier than originally expected. As a result, the SGRC Planning and Transportation Department is working with the counties in the Region to secure enough participation resolutions to begin the process. When participation is guaranteed by a majority of the counties, then SGRC could move forward with the process. The new regional transportation tax would be referred to as TIA 2 and could be on the ballot in either 2024 or 2025 for the Southern Georgia Region (Region 11).   

For additional information on SGRC/VLMPO initiatives, please reach out to Elizabeth Backe, Planning & Transportation Director and District 8 GPA Director at 229-333-5277.

Heart of Georgia – Altamaha Regional Commission (HOGARC) 

New Zoning Ordinances

HOGARC staff are drafting new model zoning ordinances and assisting with major modifications to zoning ordinances for several jurisdictions. Regional interest in the implementation of zoning ordinances in rural areas has been sparked by concerns stemming from the nearby Hyundai plant announcement (Bryan County) and the prospect of rapid industrial development moving further inland from the Georgia Ports. 

Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs)

In the past year, the average number of Developments of Regional Impact (DRIs) filed per year has doubled in the region; all DRIs filed in the past year have been related to the transportation/shipping/distribution/logistics industries and all new DRIs filed have been for proposed developments in Dublin, Laurens County. 

City and County Plans

HOGARC Planning staff are working on the following Comprehensive Plans (including Solid Waste and Service Delivery Strategy): Tattnall, Johnson, and Wilcox counties. Additionally, staff is working on a Downtown Master Plan and Rural Zone application for the City of Vidalia.

Additional Updates

In 2022, the City of Hazlehurst, the City of Baxley, and the City of Wrightsville all received Rural Zone designations in the HOGARC region. Staff assisted with applications for Baxley and Hazlehurst. Evans County Completed a Bike/Pedestrian Plan in 2022. Comprehensive Plan updates were completed for Candler, Emanuel, and Appling Counties in 2022.

For additional information on HOGARC initiatives, please reach out to Mandy Britt, Planning Director at 912-367-3648.