WOODBINE — The Camden County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to delay a decision on a hardship variance that could lead to new construction on Cumberland Island National Seashore.
County Attorney John Myers said he met with acting National Park Service Director Mike Reynolds on June 2 to discuss allowing more time to negotiate an agreement.
Lumar LLC, a company owned by property owners on Cumberland Island, also agreed to ask commissioners to table the issue, Myers said.
In a letter sent to commissioners prior to the meeting, a Park Service official asked for more time to negotiate an agreement said “valuable progress” had been made in ongoing negotiations. Reynolds estimated it could take a year to reach an agreement.
Prior to the vote, St. Marys City Councilman Bob Nutter spoke to commissioners. Nutter said he was speaking in his capacity as a private citizen and a member of St. Marys EarthKeepers.
“Your decision is a legacy decision,” he said. “You will indelibly mark Cumberland Island. Your decision has national impact. The surrounding land is owned by all Americans.”
Tom Canning, of St. Marys, said he was “encouraged” by discussions to resolve the issue and asked commissioners to grant more time to resolve it.
County resident Carl Miller said the 10-lot subdivision on the island proposed by Lumar is “a can of worms.” He said the appeal to extend talks should be approved and the variance request by Lumar should be rejected by commissioners.
Steve Weinkle, of Camden County, said the county’s zoning ordinance for the private property on Cumberland Island is similar to ones that have been upheld numerous times in court.
“Zoning is legal,” he said. “It protects the national park, which is adjacent (to the disputed property).”
Weinkle said condemnation of property is one option that could be explored. He also cautioned commissioners that 2,000 Camden County residents have signed a petition opposing new construction on the island.
“They have no perpetual owners on the island,” he said. “The best you can do is resolve the variance issue that was granted.”