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Governments Plan for Development of Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level: Liberty County, Georgia

Additional background prepared by the staff of Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center and Jim Titus

More than 61,000 people reside in the more than 519 square miles that constitute Liberty County. In addition, Fort Stewart is partially located within the county. Fort Stewart is the Army's largest base east of the Mississippi River.

Parks and open spaces owned by the city of Hinesville or the county are designated as Recreation/Conservation (R/C) on the county land use map. Those areas include Wolf Island National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness Area, Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge, Lewis Island State Natural Area, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Sapelo Island National Estuarine Sanctuary, Fort King George State Park, and R.J. Reynolds State Wildlife Refuge. St. Catherines Island (eastern edge of map) will not be developed, so we show that area as light green.

The most heavily developed portion of the county surrounds the town of Hinesville and Fort Stewart, which are almost certain to be protected. County planners also indicated that protection is likely, but not certain in the residential areas of Riceboro and Midway. County officials indicated that other lands will probably not have sufficient development to warrant shoreline protection. Lands classified as agriculture or forestry are eligible for protection, but protection is unlikely. Much of the land currently classified as vacant/undeveloped consists of wetlands and will not be protected.

The County will maintain and improve its roads to maintain access to public and private property. For example, the County anticipates taking efforts to protect infrastructure associated with the industrial park planned for the area between Midway and I-95. The County will maintain evacuation routes such as GA- 144, GA-119, GA-196, US-84, and US-17.

The county comprehensive plan did not explicitly define additional areas for development. We contacted Liberty County Consolidated Planning Commission. Our primary contact was Brandon Wescott, who discussed the maps with Sonny Timmerman, staff director. Our discussions of that map (both over the phone and via email) resulted in the following recommended changes:

1. Show the Mid-Coast Business Center and depict it as protection certain. Commercial development is being directed into this center, which has two separate sites separated by about one mile and I-95.

2. Change the areas immediately surrounding (and between) the two sites of the Mid-Coast Business Center from blue to brown. The areas along the I-95 interchange are also zoned commercial, and the abundance of business centers is likely to support construction of homes nearby.

3. Show the planned Hampton Island Project as protection likely. The high-end developments in this area tend to have conservation easements.

4. Show Colonel's Island and Yellow Bluff as protection likely. These areas are drawing attention of developers.

5. Show Ft. Stewart and the urbanized areas to its east as protection certain. The low-lying areas in and adjacent to this military base are heavily developed and would be protected even if the base were closed and converted to civilian use.

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Governments Plan for Development of Most Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea (PDF, 7 pp., 1.3 MB) was originally published in Environmental Research Letters , Issue 3, Volume 4 (2009).

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