Environmental groups appeal approval of Sea Island Co.'s plans to develop island's south end
Florida Times-Union
Mike Morrison

BRUNSWICK, GA. - A pair of environmental advocacy groups has asked the Glynn County Commission to overturn a controversial decision by the Island Planning Commission to allow construction on a fragile arm of oceanfront property on the southern end of Sea Island.

The Altamaha Riverkeeper and the Center for a Sustainable Coast contend the decision by the planning commission to approve Sea Island Acquisition's preliminary plat for the eight-lot development was procedurally flawed, would allow the construction of a road and bridges through marshland and hasten erosion on the 7.3-acre tract known as the Spit.

Steve Caley, senior attorney for GreenLaw, sent a 11-page letter on behalf of the environmental groups to each of the seven commissioners on Thursday.

In it, Caley accused the planning commission of, in essence, improperly amending the county's zoning ordinance to allow the project to proceed and violating the public trust.

"With the current rate of erosion that is only expected to increase with rising sea levels, the already narrow Spit is eroding much faster than any other shoreline in the area," Caley said. "Moreover, one of the lots in this proposed subdivision is barely above water under normal conditions . . "

The Planning Commission approved a plan of the proposed development during its meeting on Jan. 21, pointing out that the property already is zoned for residential development and contending that it had no other recourse.

If the county's Community Development Department also approves the plan, the company would be free to proceed with roadway, water and sewer construction.

County Commissioner Dale Provenzano, who represents the islands, said the environmental groups are misguided in their efforts to get the commission to intervene.

"Their argument is with the state," he said.

The state's Environmental Protection Division enforces the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, which delineates where construction may occur.

"In my opinion, this is not a County Commission issue," he said.

Provenzano said he's not even sure it's within the commission's powers to get involved at this stage.

"Approving this project would set a dangerous precedent by allowing development in an extremely fragile and hazardous area," Center for a Sustainable Coast Executive Director David Kyler said.

Since the January meeting, there's been an outcry against the development.

A "Save the Spit" online petition has garnered several hundred signatures and Altamaha Riverkeeper Executive Director Deborah Sheppard said more public support is needed.
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