The Columbia County Planning Commission welcomed a new commissioner and elected new officers Thursday before voting to adopt state-mandated, five-year updates to the county's Growth Management Plan.
Brett McGuire, a former chairman of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, joined the planning commission after the resignation of planning commission Chairman Ron Thigpen.
"I'm looking forward to helping control the growth in Columbia County," McGuire said. "With Columbia County in the position it is in now and for the next several years it will be critical how we handle it."
Thigpen, who also is the chairman of the Columbia County Development Authority, resigned with one year remaining on his term because he is planning a run for a post on the county commission, newly elected planning commission Chairman Tom Sprague said.
Thigpen would not confirm Friday that he is planning a run for a commission seat but, he said, he has been asked to consider a run for elective office.
He called his time on the planning commission a learning experience in the inner-workings of county government.
"I'll miss working with the staff and working with the citizens of Columbia County," Thigpen said. "I think the planning commission serves a vital function in the whole county process and I found it a most enjoyable experience."
Sprague, who has served on the planning commission for three years, said of being chairman, "I'm thrilled that my fellow commissioners felt confident enough in me to do this job."
Deanne Hall, who has served on the planning commission for one year and is a veteran of the green space committee, was elected vice chairwoman.
The meeting Thursday was unusually light on business, with the only major vote being the adoption of the five-year updates on the Growth Management Plan, which was approved 4-1. Planning Commissioner Tony Atkins was the sole vote opposed.
Jeri Whitworth, a member of the growth management steering committee that worked for one year to complete the updates, implored planning the commission and the county commission to respect the growth guidelines as though they were law.
"This is our plan, it is not a genie in the bottle ... It's not a pipe dream," Whitworth said. "It's our vision for the future. It isn't state law, but there is no law that says you cannot adhere to it.
"I'm asking you as planning commissioners to respect it, I'm asking you to abide by it and I'm asking that all decisions you make be guided by it."
The updates will move to the board of commissioners for their approval and adoption Tuesday.
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