Editor’s note: This article is part of a series profiling the members of the Islands Planning and Mainland Planning commissions.
John Williams sees the Mainland Planning Commission as not just another board, but a means for the public to get involved in the development of their community.
“I would say the role of the planning commissions is somewhat of an extension and support to the Community Development Department, but also the community. I think we are charged to maintain some level of balance in the growth,” Williams said. “Sometimes people want growth just to have growth, but I think it needs to be healthy growth and sustainable.”
A local realtor since 1990 and general contractor since 1994, Williams said he has a breadth of experience that helps inform his decisions on the MPC.
“I’m actually a general contractor. I’ve been doing that for probably 22 years, somewhere in there. I’m also a real estate broker, I’ve got my own company, John K. William Realty,” Williams said. “I’m a native of Brunswick. I’m familiar with the community.”
Along with his professional experience, Williams explained that he’s very involved in the community and has a good grasp of unique natures of different parts of the county.
“Having some background information from a contractor or realtor perspective is very useful and gives insight,” he said. “I think my insight is helpful in some of our decision-making, the fact that I do have some construction and real estate background.”
He was appointed to his second term on the MPC by Glynn County Commission Allen Booker in 2017.
“I enjoy my fellow commissioners, working with them. I like what everyone brings to the table,” Williams said. “... Each commission has its own set of rules and things they’re trying to accomplish. We just have to make sure we aren’t doing anything that’s, one, outside of the parameters (of the law), and two, benefiting the individual over the community.”
While the planning commissions need to adhere to the zoning ordinance and be objective, he said they should also take the public good into account.
“We need to listen to the professionals so we don’t end up in left field, but we also need to be a voice for the community as well and relate it in an intelligible way,” Williams said. “It’s knowing what your role is and not making decisions that benefit the individual but the whole community.”
To that end, he said he’d like to see more opportunities for the public to speak at meetings and to get involved in the development process, even if it means longer meetings.
“That adds to transparency and makes people feel like they’re part of the process even more,” he said. “Some things aren’t open to the public. It would make it long and all that stuff, but I’m all about transparency ... The planning commission I’m on, we’re open to hearing people’s opinions.”
In addition to giving the public more opportunities to get involved, Williams said the county needs to make it easier for them to use the tools to give informed feedback. Thanks to an upcoming overhaul of the county’s zoning ordinance, Williams said the county may have that opportunity.
“I think one of the things that’s been an issue is that (the zoning ordinance is) convoluted and hard to understand, so making them easier to read is essential. I don’t think there’s a lot of (convoluted ordinance sections), but identifying those and making them easier to understand is important,” Williams said. “The vast amount of people who come before us aren’t familiar with the ordinance.”
If the zoning ordinance is simplified, Williams said, the public will also have to want to get involved.
“You’ll never know unless you participate,” he said.
In addition to streamlining it, Williams said he believes in the county’s stated goal of bringing the ordinance in line with the comprehensive plan.
“I think a lot of times when we make decisions, there are guidelines we have to follow, but we also have to keep in mind that these decisions are not made in isolation,” he said. “There’s the comprehensive plan that we need to follow. It needs to be something we can sustain over time. We need opportunities for real growth and sustainable growth to take place.”
Ultimately, he said the MPC is an advisory body to the county commission, and it should have the tools to perform its role while benefitting the county at large.
“I’d like to thank Allen again, for giving me the opportunity to serve,” Williams said. “That’s who I am. I give my life to serve this community that gave so much to me. I appreciate the opportunity to give back.”